ANC jostles for power as Iron Mike sidesteps protocol

2011-02-01 14:14

A bid by eThekwini municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe to have his R1.6 million-a-year contract extended after June seems to have blown up in his face.

ANC leaders in the province were irked that Sutcliffe was quoted in a local Sunday newspaper saying that he wanted to ­extend his contract beyond June to run Durban’s Olympic bid.

They said he had ignored party structures to “lobby” for an ­extension when the party’s ­deployment committee was still dealing with councillor lists and had not yet begun discussing ­administrative appointments.

The renewed tension with the ANC leaders couldn’t have come at a worse time. On Thursday a provincial auditor-general’s ­report indicated that the city had incurred R500 million in “irregular expenditure” in the past ­financial year.

Sutcliffe’s contract, which expired before the World Cup, was extended to allow him to oversee tournament-related projects.

A senior member of the ANC provincial executive said the leadership was “concerned” about Sutcliffe’s comments.

“Mike is old in the ANC and he of all people knows this is not the way things are done. There is already a debate about the need for new leadership at city manager level, but these things can only happen after a new provincial ­executive is elected and once the issue of who the new city leadership will be is settled by the deployment committee,” he said.

“He (Sutcliffe) has great skills, but has been in the position for a very long time. How can we transform and move into the ­future ­without developing new leadership.”

However, Sutcliffe denied lobbying for the extension, saying his comments had been taken out of context and refused to comment further.

He said: “There is no issue here. I have a contract that ends in June and we’ll see after that. I am here to answer questions about the city, not about this.”

Following the death of eThekwini ANC chairperson John ­Mchunu, Sutcliffe’s relationship with the regional leadership has suffered.

Another ANC source said: “There is a feeling, rightly or wrongly, that Mike did the bidding of the former chair to the detriment of the region. He does not enjoy a good relationship with the current regional leadership and this may get worse with the coming elections.”

The ANC’s alliance partners also ­favoured a change, having been fiercely critical of several deals done under ­Sutcliffe’s ­tenure.

The likely candidate for his job – perhaps the most sought-after administrative post in the ­province as it controls a budget of R26 billion a year – is former ANC member of provincial ­legislature Cyril Xaba, adviser to Premier Zweli Mkhize.

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