The Nelson Mandela Bay metro’s Democratic Alliance mayoral contender, Athol Trollip, was not waiting for the election results to prepare for a purge of municipal officials at the very top who are found to have unduly benefitted from the state or ANC-linked deals.
One day before the vote, in an unprecedented move, Trollip wrote to the municipality’s senior employees, assuring them “their jobs are not in danger”.
“This is a fiercely contested election and there’s a possibility of administrative change. That brings with it issues of job security, you have nothing to be insecure about. We will treat every single official with mutual respect,” Trollip wrote in the letter, which was condemned by the incumbent mayor, Danny Jordaan.
These positions are held by ANC deployees, who will be the first people under scrutiny, should the DA take control of the metro.
“People in management are on contracts, and their term comes to an end after the election. We will conduct forensic audits of all people in management positions. If there’s any indication of fraudulent or corrupt activity, they’ll have to answer for that,” Trollip said.
The letter was an attempt by the DA to win support in the municipality during a period of uncertainty over administrative change.
The planned changes are not aimed at the lower-level staff permanently employed by the state, the letter added. Instead, the metro’s management structure faces a review.
Trollip wrote that his administration would not demand the same unflinching dedication to the DA’s wishes. Instead, he hopes to appoint people committed to clean governance and promote them accordingly.
“We have a manifesto on offer of a clean government that’s corruption free and that will create jobs. If they are up for doing that, they will work perfectly within a DA administration. They can get promoted if they work hard, not through cadre deployment.”
Trollip insisted the DA’s track record in government proves its commitment to protecting workers’ rights, while implementing its own political ideology.
“We govern 25 municipalities; there was never any wholesale firing of people. We embrace the officials and if they embrace the DA they too will benefit directly,” he told the Mail & Guardian.
But the letter was condemned “with the contempt it deserves” by Jordaan.
“It sends a serious signal about somebody who doesn’t understand governance. All those officials account to the city manager and him alone. Maybe he doesn’t understand this. The city manager expressed his disgust with what [Trollip] has done,” he said.
Jordaan said he’d tried to keep political meddling out of the management of the city.
“And we have kept the administration out of the political election. Now, he’s declared it open season. So the Economic Freedom Fighters can write to staff, ANC can write to staff. The arrogance that he displays shows why he will lose tomorrow,” Jordaan said on Tuesday.
This is not the first time the municipality’s officials face the firing squad. In 2013, municipal manager Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela resigned after being pressured by then-mayor Ben Fihla to make a host of appointments, including 43 Umkhonto weSizwe veterans at a cost of R4.3-million. She was later awarded R3.1-million in damages after the high court in Port Elizabeth confirmed political interference by Fihla and his deputy, Thando Ngcolomba.