Ousted Mandela Bay mayor now special adviser to EC premier

Fihla was appointed to lead the Eastern Cape metro in 2013, but was removed from his position two years later. (Michael Sheehan, Gallo)

Fihla was appointed to lead the Eastern Cape metro in 2013, but was removed from his position two years later. (Michael Sheehan, Gallo)

Former Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality mayor Ben Fihla, who was made to resign from his position in May by the ANC for non-delivery, is now a special adviser to Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle. 

The octogenarian was replaced by football boss Danny Jordaan as the ruling party feared it could lose the metro in the 2016 local government elections. 

A memorandum seen by the Mail & Guardian and dated July 17 says Fihla is to be an additional special adviser to the premier. He will take home a salary of just less than R1-million a year. 

Fihla served as an MP in the National Assembly from 1994. 

He was appointed to lead the Eastern Cape metro in 2013, but was removed from his position two years later. 

The M&G reported previously that some regional and provincial leaders in the province were unhappy with Fihla’s leadership and believed the 83-year-old was too old to engage effectively with communities.

Masualle’s spokesperson, Nomfanelo Kota, said that according to the law premiers may appoint up to two advisers. 

She would not confirm explicitly if Fihla had been appointed as an adviser. 

“As and when the internal processes are concluded to appoint a second adviser, the office of the premier would first conclude those processes and then make an official announcement in due course,” Kota said. 

The trend to create advisory posts for ANC veterans who are replaced in government is not new in the ANC-led government.

Last year, President Jacob Zuma appointed former deputy minister of international relations and struggle stalwart Ebrahim Ebrahim as his special adviser on parliamentary affairs. 

When Zuma became president, he made former defence minister Charles Nqakula his political adviser. 

Political analyst Ebrahim Fakir said that while the idea of having advisers was not wrong, this demonstrated the dispensing of patronage.

“I find it curious … He [Fihla] was in a place with few problems, which he was not able to fix, and now to go to a place with bigger problems [that are] worse than where he came from,” he said.

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