Shelembe’s comeback

2012-03-12 00:00

CONTROVERSIAL former Msunduzi deputy mayor Alpha Shelembe is back in the pound seats and insists he is “no monster”.

He was elected yesterday as chairperson of the ANC’s Moses Mabhida region, KZN’s second largest after eThekwini, which covers seven municipalities under the uMgungundlovu district.

It is a a spectacular comeback for Shelembe, following his “annus horribilis” in 2011, where he had to resign as deputy mayor and regional treasurer after he was implicated in an arson attack on the party’s Pietermaritzburg offices.

The charges were later withdrawn.

His star had begun to wane the year before, when he was demoted from speaker to ordinary Msunduzi councillor after the municipality’s near collapse.

Shelembe’s election to the top regional post boosts the chances of his ally, Premier Zweli Mkhize, for a second term as ANC provincial chair.

Speaking to The Witness last night, Shelembe said: “I am not a monster as I was painted to be by certain people within the organisation the [ANC] who had motives only known to them.

“I was painted out to be this bad person who does not understand the ANC.”

But there was no talk of recrimination or revenge.

Shelembe said that contrary to rumours he had no plans to recall or reshuffle municipal leaders.

“We have a duty to continue with the work done by the provincial leadership of bringing unity in our region,” he said.

The municipalities that fall under the district are Msunduzi, uMngeni (Howick), Mpofana (Mooi River), Mkhambathini (Camperdown), Richmond, Impendle and Umshwathi (New Hanover).

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala tried to allay fears that Shelembe’s election would see some people lose their jobs.

“This was not about the ANC deployees in councils, but it was about electing the new leadership of the region, to carry out the programmes of the ANC without recalling anyone in the municipality,” Zikalala said.

Shelembe extended an olive branch to party members who did not support him, saying that as the ANC “we need each other to work together going forward”.

Mervin Dirks, whose camp stood for election against Shelembe, said the conference was free and fair and that they would support the new regional executive committee (REC) in the interest of service delivery.

Others elected to the REC include Mthandeni Dlungwane, who chaired the disbanded leadership of the KZN ANCYL, as Shelembe’s deputy.

Supa Zuma retained his post as regional secretary, while uMngeni Mayor Mbali Myeni was elected deputy secretary and businessman and Msunduzi ward 20 councillor Thulani Xulu treasurer.

Serving on an REC is viewed as a powerful and lucrative position, as members can influence decisions such as municipal posts and even tenders in ANC-dominated councils.

Some of Shelembe detractors yesterday described the new REC as a joke.

“We are dealing with leaders of the underworld disguised as ANC leaders,” said one.

Another alleged that the weekend election was “cooked” as some branches deemed to be against the previous REC had been excluded.

He claimed the ANC in the province was aware of this, but had turned a blind eye and allowed the elective conference to take place.

Questions have also been raised about the fact that the election occurred before a task team appointed by the ANC’s national executive committee and headed by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had released its findings.

It had probed whether candidates’ lists had been manipulated in the province ahead of last year’s local government election. Moses Mabhida was the first region to be visited by the task team.

Shelembe and Supa Zuma were accused by some ANC members, who staged a two-month long sit-in at the region’s offices, of manipulating the lists.

An angry ANC member said yesterday the contents of the report should have been released before the elective conference. He said some members did not participate because they did not trust the provincial executive committee (PEC) that oversees the elections.

“We want to hold a conference where all members of the ANC can participate and the BGMs [branch general meetings] must be monitored by the NEC because we do not trust the PEC.”

Shelembe’s election has also raised eyebrows as he is facing charges of alleged money laundering, corruption and fraud.

These relate to the sale of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality building for office and parking space at an inflated price in 2003.

The court case has been postponed several times since last year and is scheduled to resume in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on June 19.

UKZN political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu said the fact that Shelembe faces charges meant there was still a cloud hanging over his head.

“It does not sit well with people like us who are political analysts because we wonder what will happen if he is found guilty.”

Ndlovu questioned whether there was such a dearth of leaders that ANC members felt that Shelembe was the only fit candidate.

“I don’t think ANC members take these matters of leaders being under a cloud seriously, because even President Jacob Zuma was elected into the position while he was still facing charges,” he said.

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