Exco complete at last

2013-06-17 00:00

AFTER operating for two years with two members short on the Msunduzi executive committee (Exco), the ANC has finally appointed councillors to fill the vacant posts.

A special full council meeting was called on Friday to make the announcement. The reshuffling of seats indicated that former deputy mayor Alpha Shelembe, chairperson of the ANC’s Moses Mabhida region, is back in the driving seat.

Shelembe resigned as deputy mayor two years ago after being implicated in arson. He was cleared of that charge and more recently found not guilty of fraud, corruption and money laundering charges relating to the sale of a building to the uMgungundlovu District Council.

Shelembe and members of his regional executive committee were present to hear Friday’s announcement that Woodlands ward councillor Mary van Schalkwyk, Msunduzi’s representative in the district municipality, had resigned from her position there to take up one of the vacancies on the Exco. The other vacancy was taken up by ward 20 councillor Thulani Xulu, treasurer of the ANC’s Moses Mabhida region.

Proportional representative councillor Zonke Mbatha, who had resigned two years ago as speaker of the Msunduzi council, would go to the district council.

According to sources at the district, Mbatha would head the Local Economic Development Portfolio Committee there.

The DA’s Bill Lambert said his party respected the nominations and hoped the ANC had made wise decisions.

The National Freedom Party’s Patrick Bhengu said the council finally had a full complement on Exco. He found it baffling that it had taken the ANC two years to find replacements.

The IFP was not present at the meeting. It turned out that some members had not received the notice of the meeting. Msunduzi Speaker Babu Baijoo said he had informed the whips of all parties.

IFP caucus leader Dolo Zondi said he felt that the exercise was a waste of money.

“If we managed without these Exco members for two years, it proves that Exco could have carried on without these vacancies filled. It seems a waste of money, considering that this present council has less than two years left in office,” he added.

Asked why it had taken the ANC so long to make the appointments, Shelembe said the issues were “sensitive”.

He pointed to internal squabbles within the party after the 2011 election, where members were unhappy with the appointments of some councillors. “We had to deal with these issues internally and get buy-in from everyone. We are now comfortable that we have reached a point to make the appointments,” Shelembe said.

He added that the choice of the Exco members was an ANC caucus decision.

However, municipal insiders believe that the appointments show that Shelembe is back in control, now that his legal woes are over. They pointed to Mbatha, who resigned with Shelembe, being rewarded by being deployed to an Exco position on the district council. They claimed that Xulu was also close to Shelembe.

Two-week sit-in pays off

FRIDAY’S appointments of two ANC Exco members came about because of discontent within ANC ranks after the 2011 local government election.

Activists held a two-week sit-in at the Moses Mabhida offices in Langalibalele Street, protesting against the choice of councillors. They alleged that members of the regional executive, whose resignations they demanded, had placed their cronies as councillors. Things turned ugly when an office where the sit-in was being held was set alight. Fingers were pointed at Alpha Shelembe, who was charged but later cleared of arson. The ANC’s national executive committee then appointed Nkosa­zana Dlamini-Zuma to head a task team to probe allegations of councillors being foisted on communities.

There was further outcry locally when Shelembe was appointed Msunduzi deputy mayor and Zonke Mbatha the speaker. ANC alliance partners openly rebelled against the appointments. The SACP questioned how Shelembe and Mbatha could be given positions in the new council when they had been in the leadership of the previous council under whose watch the municipality was brought to the brink of bankruptcy.

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