Two mayors, one position: Mogalakwena battle rages on

2014-11-25 11:26

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Police have denied taking sides in the raging political battle between two mayors claiming to be at the helm of the troubled Mogalakwena municipality in Limpopo.

Tlhalefi Mashamaite and William Mabuela both insist they are in charge of Mogalakwena.

The saga began when Mashamaite, who was mayor, enraged his political opponents by spending R1?million of the municipality’s money to employ 27 bodyguards for his personal protection.

Forensic auditors recommended that criminal charges be laid against Mashamaite for the alleged misuse of public funds.

In April, the council of Mogalakwena Municipality appointed Mabuela as mayor.

However, having been endorsed by the ANC and the provincial government, Mashamaite was re-elected mayor at a council meeting chaired by South African Local Government Association Limpopo executive officer Thapelo Matlala at a local hotel earlier this month.

After having led his council for more than a week from the outside, Mashamaite decided to go claim his place yesterday. He was accompanied by police, who said they were there to ensure this happened smoothly.

A brief violent scene erupted late yesterday afternoon when police, led by deputy provincial police commissioner Major-General Benny Ntlemeza, arrived at the municipal premises in Mokopane and found the gates locked.

Eyewitnesses said the police used heavy tools to break the locks. Police said they resorted to “force” after they were pelted with stones by a group of people believed to be part of the ANC faction supporting Mabuela.

The Democratic Alliance has raised the issue in Parliament, asking for the house to discuss the role of the police in Mogalakwena after it was alleged that officers staged a coup d’état at the municipality earlier this month.

At the time, they were accompanied by Mashamaite, who had already been replaced with Mabuela.

After his “re-election”, Mashamaite returned to the municipal premises almost two weeks ago, also accompanied by the police. He found the gates locked again and was served with court papers barring him and the police from entering the municipal premises.

Yesterday’s situation was a repeat of that visit.

“We went there escorting [Mashamaite] and new councillors to ensure that they gain access to the premises. Officers were forced to use force after they were pelted with stones by people from behind locked gates,” said Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.

“It is not true that we’re taking sides in this matter but we police the area and there are no no-go areas for the police. Gates were locked and we opened them to make sure the new councillors get in.”

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Mabuela’s faction will proceed with their planned council meeting at 2pm today. More drama was anticipated as Mashamaite and Mabuela were expected to continue claiming to be the rightful mayors of Mogalakwena.

This political drama continues at a time when councillors are supposed to be out and about campaigning for their ANC candidates following the declaration of vacancies of councillors in 13 wards after the governing party expelled Mabuela and 21 other councillors.

Mulaudzi said police will continue to monitor the situation.

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