Message by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP and President of the United Democratic Movement on the occasion of the funeral service of Councillor Mongameli Bobani held at the Feather Market Centre, Port Elizabeth, 20 November 2020
• Mrs Nosakhele Bobani, Mrs Novuyo and Mr Bobani senior, the Bobani children and grandchildren and the family
• His Worship, the acting Executive Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay
• Members of the Mayoral Executive Committee and his fellow councillors
• Municipal officials, staff and workers
• Reverend Xuku
• Leaders and ordinary members of the UDM
• People of Nelson Mandela Bay
1. A man who evoked emotion
William Shakespeare once wrote that: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”, in tandem with that, I also invoke a phrase Charles Dickens wrote which was “…we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
The late Mongameli Bobani was a man who was not afraid to act on that stage of public life and politics and he certainly had the capacity to evoke dichotomous reactions in people.
One thing is for certain, anyone who crossed his path had a strong opinion of him.
He was however able to make more friends than enemies. This is espoused in his social media, which showed thousands of messages of commiseration within hours as the news of his passing spread.
Even on my social media, after expressing disbelief of his passing, so many people said: “We will miss his tweets”. He had a way of expressing himself that was uniquely his own.
Once someone asked him on Twitter: “How exactly did you become mayor, if I may ask.” and he responded as follows: “Pure political mathematics, with a little bit of geometry (corresponding angles), not maths literacy Sis Pamela, pure maths, if you know what I mean.”
“Hit the ground running” had become his catchphrase.
His charisma, coupled with his never-ending smile and sense of humour, earned him great respect. He had a joyous way about him, and he did not mind sharing that joy.
But he could also be fierce when he was serious about a matter. Then you quickly had to forget that you both were laughing about a joke just a minute ago. And, as soon as the serious matter was disposed of, he would go back to cracking jokes.
2. A servant of the people
Whilst we are sad at his going away, we are here to also remember and honour his life and console his loved ones.
We are talking about a leader who derived pleasure from helping people. Even the way he contracted Covid-19 was a testimony to his desire to help, because he was busy doing exactly that when he became ill, he was working on the ground assisting with service delivery issues.
For almost seventeen years, he served as a councillor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality and the role he played is well documented.
He honestly did not care where a citizen of this municipality lived; whether it be in a ward the African National Congress (ANC) or Democratic Alliance (DA) won in the election.
He just “hit the ground running” and asked for a reference number and tried to make your problem go away.
What we can learn from his style, is that it is important for an official or councillor to apply a non-partisan approach in attending to people’s problems.
He also did not shirk from exposing wrongdoing, even going to the Public Protector and the Hawks to report corruption in the municipality and taking on battles that sometimes made him unpopular in certain quarters. Good for him.
Just a few weeks before Councillor Bobani was admitted to hospital, I met him here in Port Elizabeth to talk to whistle-blowers. We together crafted a submission to the Zondo Commission exposing how public funds were diverted into political pockets. Those who missed that submission, you are welcome to visit our website at www.udm.org.za.
Now that Councillor Bobani is no longer here to see whether Judge Zondo will take up the matter, we will do so in his memory.
3. A man of the UDM
Mongameli Bobani will be remembered by us in the UDM. He drove his party in this area, during the good times and the bad times. He had won and lost party leadership races, but he never let it defeat him.
In fact, he was an optimist of note.
In 2016, long before the municipal elections, he predicted to me that there would be no outright winner in Nelson Mandela Bay. He argued that if the UDM performed well, we could become king makers; and so, we have.
He showed his political astuteness when he brought different parties together when the first coalition was formed post-election. When that relationship failed, he recognised that a power vacuum would be the worst thing for the people of Nelson Mandela Bay, and he sought to work with colleagues in other parties to try to make this council work.
Even if some may have misunderstood this, the point of his efforts was to make sure that the people came first.
He has done us proud and we will miss his hard work, energy and commitment.
4. Coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay
For the UDM, the politics of coalition has been a hard one, even with our outlook of putting the people first.
The culture of the so-called big parties using and abusing smaller parties must end. Yes, let us fight our battles, but not at the expense of the people. Predictions are that coalition governments are here to stay. We must therefore overcome the challenges of finding workable and governed relationships, with practical universal rules of engagement and partnership through gazetted regulations.
Given the court ruling that a mayor must be appointed in seven days, the UDM’s structures on the ground will give the party’s national leadership guidance on what kind of government they would like to see in this municipality.
Ironically both the ANC and DA have in the past called for this municipality to be placed under administration. Even the Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Mr Xolile Nqatha, has penned this opinion.
But maybe there is some method to the madness? Perhaps we should ask assistance from National Treasury, as well as Cogta at provincial and national levels, to place this municipality under administration until 2021. However, given the accusations of corruption in this municipality, maybe it should be a capable administrator from outside the province. These are just some personal thoughts I raise for everyone to mull over.
As much as we are happy that we have a justice system to revert to when things go wrong, constant battling in court means that the focus on the people and service delivery are lost in the fray.
We will talk to the various role-players, but the UDM has learnt its lessons the hard way. We will no longer be a means to an end for other people’s, or other parties’, political agendas. The UDM has one agenda and that is bettering the quality of life of all our people.
5. Our last “Bon Voyage!” to Mongameli Bobani
Our thanks to all political parties, the municipal officials, staff and workers that have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Councillor Bobani. Let us also remind ourselves to be thankful that the country’s Covid-19 strategy has worked as compared to other countries, but we must stay vigilant and law-abiding citizens, if we are to survive this pandemic.
To Mrs Bobani, Councillor Bobani’s parents, his children and grandchildren, sisters, other family and friends, on behalf of the UDM and its leadership, I want you to know, that we understand your sorrow.
We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers in this time of grief and hope that time will heal these heavy wounds.
To our UDM structures, we mourn him, but we also must carry on with his work. He has left big shoes to fill as we work towards the 2021 Municipal Elections. Let us dust off our shoes and follow in his footsteps to keep on building the UDM towards achieving a Winning Nation.
The best way of bidding Bops farewell is to emulate what he stood for, and to be servants of our people. Fare thee well, son of the soil, we will ever cherish your memory.