It’s all go, down in the windy city. No, I don’t mean Cape Town. I am talking about Nelson Mandela Bay, also known as Port Elizabeth, and I am talking about the politics. In fact, it is not just the city that is now run by the DA’s Athol Trollip that is going through major changes. The ANC in the Eastern Cape is still in absolute and utter shock after losing the local election race in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality to the DA.
I know that they are in shock. I was there last week and I had to have dinner by myself because nine people I called were in mourning.
Why they are so surprised by the election result beats me. The party went from 66% of the vote in 2006 to 51.7% in 2011. Hello? That’s what is called "the writing’s on the wall", comrades. The ANC didn’t see it and are warming the opposition benches.
To pour salt in the wound, ANC veteran Sipho Pityana was in Fort Hare the other week for the funeral of former sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile. Pityana didn’t mince his words.
"If the president were here I would have asked him as my leader, I would have begged him, I would have prayed, saying: ‘My big brother, Msholozi, hand over the reins!’" he told mourners.
Sadly, Zuma was not around to hear the message for himself. No matter. It seems to me that Nelson Mandela Bay is on the up and up. After a series of useless mayors they have appointed a new one. We will see how he does, but anyone who cannot improve on the wondrously ineffectual Ben Fihla would have to be dead and buried.
It’s great to be in Nelson Mandela Bay these days. People are excited. "Mission accomplished," an ANC veteran, now with the EFF, told me happily. "Let’s hope this time the ANC leadership will listen to us."
I knew things were going to change when, during the election campaign, residents ran ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini out of town, accusing her of having had a few drams before coming to speak to them. The ANC fobbed off all these warning signs. Ah well, we live and learn.
So last week, off I went to Nelson Mandela Bay. I wanted to eat but, as I said, no-one would go out with me. I went to De Kelder in Summerstrand. It’s a favourite, overlooking the ocean and with a great reputation. Service was on the ball. There were loads of locals and tourists.
I didn’t know what to have, so Yondi, the excellent waitress, recommended the "Prawns De Kelder – five Tiger prawns flame-grilled with rock salt and tossed in the pan in our special delicious flavours of lemon, peri-peri and garlic with your choice of linguine or rice". I was sceptical — the dish cost an eye-watering R325! But I should not have quibbled. I sunk my teeth into the first of those prawns and nearly wept with joy. It was one of the tastiest, most fantastic meals I have ever had.
The next day I met up with a friend at This is Eat, out in the harbour area. It’s a totally different type of restaurant to De Kelder. Primarily a take-away joint, this is the best place in town for fresh and cheap seafood. You can phone in your take-away order, which an extraordinary number of people did in the daytime on the Wednesday I was there, or you can eat while sitting at the wooden benches. Though it has a huge outside area, apparently it is packed at weekends.
The staff are friendly as anything, but the best thing about this rustic eatery is the food: fresh, succulent calamari and fish straight off the boats. The food arrives on a tinfoil-covered plate with plastic cutlery, and you tuck in. This is it. Fantastic. Nelson Mandela Bay is growing on me.
**** This Is Eat
16 Brickmakers Kloof Road
Tel: (041) 582-2161
***** Pravin Gordhan