ANC rift over Mettler

2010-11-30 00:00

THE departure of members of the provincial turnaround team brought in to rescue the cash-strapped Msunduzi Municipality is the result of factionalism rearing its ugly head again.

This is the verdict after a special sitting of the full council to decide whether to retain the team was called off at the last minute yesterday.

ANC councillors who wished to remain anonymous said their caucus met representatives of the party’s provincial executive committee (PEC) last week, after the PEC was alerted that councillors could not agree whether to retain the task team.

They were told that the two remaining members of the turnaround team, Johann Mettler and Ben Dorfling, would leave the municipality at the end of next month. Sources said the ruling party’s councillors were split on the decision.

Those opposing the retaining of the task team said the council cannot afford to keep Mettler and his team; neither do they want them.

Mettler’s supporters said the municipality is not ready to stand on its own feet and that his team’s departure will stall the growth of the city.

City hall insiders said various reasons have been advanced for the change of heart by certain councillors who support the turnaround team.

The insiders alleged that the ANC region and a certain councillor supported the turnaround team, but changed their minds after the task team recently suspended the wife of a senior councillor, whose name is known to The Witness, who worked at the city hall.

Many city hall insiders believe the councillor is well connected within the regional structures, and it is felt that the turnaround team is digging far too deeply while uncovering irregularities. As long as officials who are allegedly linked to councillors who were previously booted out were being suspended and dismissed no one said anything, but the dismissal of the councillor’s wife opened up a new area of dispute.

The councillors claimed that Mayor Mike Tarr and speaker Babu Baijoo are extremely unhappy about certain councillors’ refusal to retain the task team and have threatened to resign. However, Baijoo said he remains a deployee of the ANC and will leave only if the party deploys him elsewhere. Tarr could not be reached for comment.

The opponents of Mettler and his team said a senior councillor is being promoted by councillors who want local people to run the city’s administration.One councillor said the divisions have started to undo the progress the team has made. For example, garbage has lain uncollected in some areas, because councillors who want Mettler out have pushed workers to “go slow”.

“The political factionalism is back, and if it’s not nipped in the bud, we will go back to the days before the task team intervened,” said another councillor.

Councillors said yesterday’s meeting was postponed for the simple reason that Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube was in Richards Bay and unavailable to attend the special council meeting.

Dube told The Witness that the municipality cannot decide whether to retain the task team because the province appointed it. She said the task team is continuing with its job and the department has not issued any statements to the contrary

Matome Mokgobi, chairperson of the National Assembly’s select committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, said the members recommended that the intervention be extended. Mokgobi led the national delegation that came to the city on an oversight visit last month.

He said Parliament agreed to extend the intervention and it will continue according to a timeframe set by the MEC.

“We know that the contracts of certain people have expired, but we have no authority over that. That’s the MEC’s call,” said Mokgobi.

Inkatha Freedom Party caucus leader Dolo Zondi said he fears the municipality will “go back to square one” if locals are brought in to replace the turnaround team because its job is not yet complete.

Democratic Alliance caucus leader Bill Lambert said he was told it would cost the municipality R5 million to retain the intervention team and he feels “it will be worth it”.

He questioned whether there are local experts who have the experience to carry on with the job started by the departed team.

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