‘Protests stem from control of ward’

2011-02-19 16:10

Divisions in the ANC’s ­Mpumalanga provincial executive committee (PEC) could be partly to blame for the riots in Wesselton township near Ermelo.

Wesselton residents went on the rampage this week after an ­emotional meeting last Sunday, in which a slew of grievances about alleged manipulation of ­councillors’ nomination processes and employment were discussed.

The community criticised the party’s Gert Sibande regional ­executive committee (REC) – which comprises Premier David ­Mabuza’s supporters – and Msukaligwa municipality councillors over alleged nepotism, sex for jobs, bribery for jobs, corruption, and failing to provide services.

While emotions were still running high, Mabuza’s supporters called a nomination meeting at ward five in the Phumula/Everest ­section of Wesselton, and ­presented Ermelo Hospital fleet management officer Mfanimpela “Mpe” Nkosi as their candidate.

Nkosi has the backing of REC member Sibusiso Sigudla and its chairperson, Mpumalanga safety and security MEC Vusi Shongwe.

Most residents in the ward, ­however, wanted Bongani Phakathi to represent them.

In 2004, Phakathi was fired from his position as ­Msukaligwa corporate services ­director, but subsequently worked as PEC member Fish Mahlalela’s parliamentary officer when Mahlalela was roads and transport MEC.

When the post of provincial ANC chairperson was contested in 2008, Mahlalela favoured Lassy Chiwayo, but Mabuza won.

A municipal official, who refused to be named, said provincial ANC bigwigs had an interest in ward five solely for the opportunity to defeat Phakathi. Five ANC members in different regions supported this claim.

“Out of the 16 wards, they are ­focusing on ward five.

All that has happened in Ermelo emanates from this contest,” the official said.Nkosi refused to comment and Phakathi could not be reached.However, some Ermelo ­residents said it was a coincidence that the riots erupted after the ward five meeting.

Simmering anger when the ANC and Msukaligwa ­officials ignored their complaints had driven them to the brink of snapping many times before.

On Sunday, they embarked on a three-day rampage, burning tyres and barricading the streets, ­causing damage estimated at R350 000.

Community leader Dumisani Mahaye said: “We are concerned about how the ANC is manipulating the nominations to impose councillors, but the reason for marching is not as narrow as that.

The whole community had already decided to take action before the ward five meeting as we wanted the leaders to stop ignoring our ­grievances.”

Mahaye and at least 10 other community members City Press spoke to said they were concerned about Sigudla’s far-reaching ­powers at Msukaligwa.

“Go to any mine or the municipality looking for a job, and you’ll be told to speak to Sigudla,” said a resident who preferred ­to be ­unnamed for fear of intimidation.Sigudla denied all the allegations.

“These people want to ­discredit me, and also undermine council representatives and ANC processes by accusing me of all these things.

Bongani (Phakathi) mustn’t confuse the ANC by ­associating with criminals ­(the protesters),” he said.

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