Battle over mayor delays metro

2009-09-30 00:00

THE alleged infighting within the ANC that may cost Pietermaritzburg the metro status by 2011 is over who will preside as the executive mayor once the status comes into effect.

ANC insiders, who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity, alleged that there are factions within the party and these factions are split on who they want to head the metro. One faction supports Msunduzi Municipality Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo and the other backs uMgungundlovu District Mayor, Yusuf Bhamjee. However, both mayors declined to comment yesterday referring queries relating to the alleged factions and the metro status to the ANC provincial office.

According to the sources, the declaration of the Msunduzi metro status by 2011 with its current boundaries has been delayed partly because of the indecision regarding the executive mayor position. The Msunduzi Municipality may only get metro status in 2016.

The sources said that Bhamjee is allegedly favoured for the mayorship and that plans are afoot to shift Hlatshwayo to the national assembly in Cape Town to be a member of Parliament.

Both mayors, alleged sources, are being backed by influential party members.

In a statement issued after the sitting of the provincial executive committee on Monday, ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said the matter of the metro status is being handled by the MEC for Local Government, Nomusa Dube, and the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB).

“As the ANC we believe that the MEC for Local Government and the demarcation board should be allowed to run with the process,”he said.

“Like all other institutions and political organisations, we will make our contribution as and when required through the legal processes led by the MEC and the demarcation board.”

He said the party views attempts to portray divisions on an issue which has not been finalised yet as mischievous. Doubts that the city will become a metro by 2011 have raised concerns from the Democratic Alliance.

DA caucus leader in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, John Steenhuisen, said his party finds the alleged interference by the MEC for Local Government and the ANC in this matter improper and highly irregular. The function for determining municipal boundaries, said Steenhuisen, rests exclusively with the MDB. He said the Local Government Demarcation Act of 1998 created an independent board to determine municipal boundaries, precisely to avoid the political interference.

Due process was followed by the MDB in determining the boundaries of the Msunduzi metro municipality, he said, adding that the process and procedures are clearly set out in the Act, which provided thorough consultation and opportunities for input from the public, interested and affected parties.

“All parties have had a chance to have their say and the MEC must now fulfil her duty in terms of the act and gazette the change of status immediately,” Steenhuisen said.

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