By Willem Steenkamp and Myolisi Gophe

Demands are growing for Cape Town Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo to be fired in the face of mounting allegations of nepotism, corruption and mismanagement that have rocked the city.

Cape Town's administration was in deep crisis and drastic steps had to be taken to save the city from a financial meltdown, DA city councillor and deputy caucus leader Ian Nielson said last night.

Former deputy mayor Belinda Walker, of the DA, said Mfeketo had effectively run the city into the ground.

"As executive mayor she must take full responsibility. She has all the power and authority and the buck stops with her," said Walker.

"The cloak of secrecy she has wrapped around mayoral committee meetings and decisions has exacerbated the crises. She must go."

Mayoral spokesman Mandla Tyala said the mayor's office was not aware of the call by the DA for Mfeketo to be removed and therefore would not comment at this stage.

Political scientist Scarlett Cornelissen, of the University of Stellenbosch, said the lack of transparency in the city's decision-making process was of great concern.

Cornelissen said this form of local government, where so much power was concentrated in the hands of an individual and her chosen committee, might not be the best for Cape Town.

"We have in recent times seen the high levels of unhappiness over the lack of service delivery. These pressures as well as the historic political instability of the unicity have put a lot of pressure on the ANC and this is probably why we see the top structure closing ranks," said Cornelissen.

"The lack of transparency is very worrying, while it also seems there is a lack of capacity. There is very little feedback and people do not have an opportunity to call leaders to account. Some members of the city management also do not seem to realise their accountability to ratepayers and believe they can do what they want."

However, Nielson said the latest revelations of tender rigging that cost the city millions of rands, extensive fraud investigations, nepotism allegations in appointing Mfeketo's brother as deputy city police chief and the revelation that one of her most "intimate advisers" (Blackman Ngoro) harboured deep-seated feelings of neo-racism against the majority of the citizens of Cape Town, were not happenings of minor note.

"These failures of government have arisen over a very long period of time. They are the result of bankrupt policy that puts the interests of the ANC few ahead of the interests of the population as a whole, and of personal failure of leadership."

Nielson said the latest allegations of corruption, nepotism and questionable tenders were just the tip of the iceberg. He said Mfeketo's reign has been marked by poor management and corruption.

"The first sign of corruption was the Big Bay land scandal where ANC cronies were put on a list to obtain land below market value purportedly as part of Mfeketo's black economic empowerment policy.

"Some faceless official was blamed for the flawed process and that issue has still not been finalised.

"Then we had the city's lucrative four-year cellphone contract that was awarded to Cell C when the existing supplier offered cheaper rates.

"The city's roads maintenance contracts were awarded to companies that simply could not do the work, resulting in competent contractors removing their equipment from the Western Cape. This meant that no road maintenance was done during the 2004/5 financial year, leaving city roads pockmarked with potholes.

"We also had:

  • Three roads contracts valued at R25 million awarded to the company BTH, which should have been disqualified, and was not able to complete the contracts at a cost of millions to the city. (The city has agreed to probe this tender).

  • Security services contracts were given to companies which tendered much higher than others. Again ANC luminaries, such as the Skwatsha family, benefited.

  • Non-awarding of a Melkbosstrand housing tender because there was no ANC-aligned tenderer, delaying the much-needed project indefinitely.

  • The highly controversial Big Bay land sale to the Jonga Entabeni company of Tokyo Sexwale at R36m below the best offer.

  • And the appointment of costly consultants who do not have the requisite expertise, but have ANC connections."

    Nielson said policy failures were marked by a corrupted tender approval process, where behind-the-scenes political interference ensured tenders were awarded to political favourites rather than those whose appointment would most benefit the people of the city.

    He said in many instances black economic empowerment policies were used as a cover to hide corrupt and questionable practices.

    "The marginalisation of competent, loyal, experienced officials on the basis of their race and/or assumed political affiliation has played havoc with the sound management of the city.

    "Mfeketo is the key person behind these failures. She has personally led the drive on all the above failures, but she has failed to accept even the slightest responsibility for her actions - even when the evidence is clearly against her. It is not only the DA that recognises the failure.

    "A national government survey found that Cape Town was 'struggling and prone to corruption'.

    "Cape Town cannot afford these failures. The mayor must go."

    But the Institute for a Democratic South Africa (Idasa) said the removal of people accused of wrongdoings often did not resolve the problems.

    And outspoken Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said while there were serious questions about how the city was being run, it was too early to call for the head of the mayor.

    "We must be consistent. At this stage these are only allegations. Only once we have had a thorough investigation and there is prima facie evidence, should the law take its course.

    "The DA is very quick to react, but (DA leader) Tony Leon has to this day not resigned even though the party admitted to taking money from that crook Jörgen Harksen."