Alpha’s second chance

2013-10-10 00:00

ALPHA Shelembe, the ANC’s powerful Moses Mabhida region chairperson, has welcomed the opportunity to serve his political party in another sphere of government, saying he deserved a second chance.

Shelembe was commenting on his appointment as a Member of the KZN Provincial Legislature (MPL). He fills an opening left by the departure of former premier Zweli Mkhize.

“In the 15 years I served in local government, I made my mark. It is fair, not that I deserve it, that I be given a chance in another sphere of government,” Shelembe said yesterday.

He was “happy, humbled and excited” that the ANC had shown confidence in him.

Shelembe’s tenure in local government was marked by controversy. He and his wife Joyful were recently acquitted of corruption and money laundering charges, while his co-accused, ANC Bambatha region chairperson Lucky Moloi, was found guilty.

The charges arose from the sale of a property in Pietermaritzburg to the uMgungundlovu­ District Municipality at an inflated price.

Shelembe was speaker in the Msunduzi council when the municipality went under administration in 2010. He subsequently left, along with other senior councillors, only to return as deputy mayor after the 2011 elections, sparking an outcry. Questions were raised about his re-appointment to the political leadership of a municipality that had collapsed during his previous tenure.

Shelembe ended up facing arson charges after the party’s regional offices were gutted during a stand-off with his detractors, and he resigned from the council and also as ANC regional treasurer.

He was later cleared of the arson charge and bounced back to become the Moses Mabhida region chairperson.

Recalling this period, he said that resigning from his leadership positions was the right move.

“I felt it appropriate to give the ANC space and time to deal with the internal matters.”

Shelembe said the experience showed that patience pays off.

“At times we become impatient because we have not done anything wrong. If we can all be patient and allow processes to unpack, at the end the truth comes out.”

Shelembe would not say what his plans were for the future.

“In politics you do not decide for yourself,” he said.

“It is premature to have ambitions, but I will do whatever it takes to the best of my ability, and if the ANC believes I deserve something, I will be up to it.”

ANC insiders believe that Shelembe’s appointment as MPL was a reward for lobbying for Premier Senzo Mchunu to be elected the ANC’s KZN chairperson.

Shelembe downplayed this, saying: “The Moses Mabhida region took a resolution to support Senzo, and I was to lead that process, not that I should get credit,” he said.

Shelembe again refuted allegations that he was a former IFP supporter, saying he had never been a member of the party. “It was a fabrication and a campaign to smear my name. That never existed.”

Shelembe grew up in the kwaShifu area near Howick, and has a twin brother named Omega.

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