Nelson Mandela Bay is a deeply divided city, which recently released studies show is underperforming economically and socially.

But, instead of finding ways to address the inequalities and poverty, the politicians of the day seem to be focused on their own agendas and perceived power.

In their quest for power, and the spoils that go with it, the politicians focus on the issues that divide the city, rather than building on the strengths which would uplift all the citizens and remove the core problems.

These, in our informed view, start with dysfunctional education institutions that contribute to pervasive poverty and inequality.

Cynical as this may sound, the situation actually suits the politicians – poor and uneducated voters are easier to manipulate than those in the middle class.

We are not singling out any particular party in this observation.

To date no party has demonstrated that it really has the plight of the poor at heart by tackling the underlying issues which would ensure that the Metro creates the necessary opportunities for the job and wealth creation that would drag the majority out of the current poverty trap.

As long as politics is about a contest for power the critical issues of a failed education system and job creation will not materialize.

As representatives of the church and civil society we call on the politicians running the metro to work together as a team in order to focus on the critical issues. If they truly have the interests of the poor at heart they would go beyond simple adversarial politics towards the politics of collaboration.

We recognise that it is not only the politicians who need a change of mindset.

Other stakeholders of society (including business, faith-based organisations, civil society, academia and residents) need to repossess the responsibility for socio-economic development from the political parties.

Government at a local level should not be about party politics and national power plays, but should instead focus on the challenges facing the people living in the city or town.

That means that every resident and every business owner will have a role to play – and will be part of the solution, rather than criticising from the side-lines because they have allowed themselves to be excluded.

When we do this the politicians will have to work as partners in a coalition local government – if they want to remain relevant.

As concerned citizens of the metro we understand the need to concentrate on the common enemies of inequality, unemployment and poverty instead of the current practice of our elected officials focusing their energy and resources in struggles for political dominance for its own sake.

Nelson Mandela Bay has so many firsts behind it – why can it not become the first metro or town in South Africa where the two dominant parties form a local coalition in order to tackle the real issues?

That, after all, is their mandate from the voters of the metro.

Bishop Jacob Freemantle:  Methodist Church of SA (Grahamstown District)

Apostle Neville Goldman:  National Executive Assemblies of God

Reverend Danie Mouton:  Director Synod Eastern Cape DRC

Bishop Bethlehem Nopece:  Anglican Church SA (PE Diocese)

Dr Dave Pedersen:  Fountain Vineyard Church

Reverend Rory Spence:  Moderator:  Central Cape Presbytery

Pastor Johannes Welskit: Regional Leader EC AFM

Bishop Vincent Zungu:  Catholic Diocese PE