…By Joseph Benjamin for TDPel Media.
Nelson Mandela Bay’s mayor, Retief Odendaal, is facing a no-confidence vote in the municipality’s divided council on Friday.
However, in an extraordinary protest on Thursday, shack dwellers came out in support of the Democratic Alliance (DA) mayor, with thousands signing a petition backing Odendaal.
The protesters expressed their belief that Odendaal has delivered on his promises, while accusing African National Congress (ANC) representatives of corruption.
The demonstration took place in Area 11 informal settlement in ward 45, KwaNobuhle in Kariega, where approximately 300 shack dwellers burned tires, whistled, and sang songs, effectively closing the busy R334 Rocklands Road.
The protesters were opposing the removal of Mayor Retief Odendaal from his position.
Protesters displayed placards that read, “Hands off our mayor,” “Area 11 stands 100% with Odendaal,” “You touch our mayor, you touch the community,” and “To hell with a vote of no confidence against the mayor.”
In interviews with the protesters, it became evident that they believed Mayor Odendaal had improved service delivery.
For instance, Khosi Brandy confronted ANC representatives present at the protest, highlighting that the toilets they had constructed were still not functioning properly and that chemical toilets were only cleaned every six months.
In contrast, since Odendaal took office in January, he had already delivered 308 chemical toilets that were cleaned every second day.
Brandy stated their opposition to the motion to oust the mayor.
The visibly angry crowd handed a 13-page petition with over 3,000 signatures to ANC former chief whip of Nelson Mandela Bay, Wandisile Jikeka, who had arrived with two ANC ward councillors, Sabelo Mabuda and Lungile Langbooi.
The protesters reiterated that Odendaal had proven his commitment to the community while accusing ANC representatives of seeking personal gain through corruption.
Residents passionately expressed their support for Mayor Odendaal, vowing to defend him at any cost.
They believed that the ANC’s motive for removing Odendaal was rooted in their desire to exploit the situation for personal gain.
The protesters firmly rejected the vote of no confidence, asserting that they, as voters, opposed such a decision.
Protesters demanded that Jikeka convene a meeting with all 120 councillors to urge them to cancel the attempt to remove the mayor.
However, Jikeka clarified that he lacked the authority to fulfill their request, as he was no longer the chief whip.
In response, a resident from the crowd expressed their dissatisfaction, indicating that they couldn’t entrust the petition to him due to his junior position.
Jikeka left the protest and promised to bring the speaker of the council to address the crowd.
Shortly after, Mayco Member for Electricity and Energy, Lance Grootboom, arrived and accepted the petition on behalf of the mayor.
Grootboom expressed gratitude for the community’s support and assured them of the mayor’s commitment to delivering the services they deserved.
He encouraged the community to attend the council meeting on Friday, which was expected to be a pivotal moment.