Filling the hot seat of Shelembe

2011-06-23 00:00

WITH the Msunduzi municipality’s deputy mayor, Alpha Shelembe gone, the ruling ANC is now faced with the challenge of appointing someone who will be acceptable to the party’s membership and the city’s residents.

Shelembe resigned as deputy mayor and Msunduzi councillor after protests from ANC alliance organisations, who were threatening to render the capital city ungovernable should he remain at the helm.

The main reason cited for his rejection was the fact that he was part of the leadership in the failed municipality. He also faces fraud charges with others over the irregular purchase of a building for the uMgungundlovu district municipality, and was implicated in a recent arson attack at the ANC’s regional offices in Pietermaritzburg.

Among the front-runners for the post is former Mayor Mike Tarr, who was recalled from the KZN Legislature and deployed as mayor last year after the withdrawal of the council leadership team, led by former mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo.

Although Tarr had a successful tenure as the city mayor, he was overlooked during the appointment of Exco members for the new council inaugurated on June 2. This prompted the hardened politician to contemplate resigning from the council, complaining that his experience was being ignored. However he withdrew his resignation, without explaining what made him change his mind.

While experienced, Tarr’s willingness to resign might limit his chances of getting the deputy position.

Former speaker Babu Baijoo is also a hot contender. He was expected to be appointed speaker again in the new council, but heard half an hour before the inauguration of the new council he heard he was no longer getting that position. Instead he was made a member of the executive committee (Exco). If Baijoo gets the position, this will help balance the racial representation in the leadership

Another ANC councillor who may be considered for the position is Jabu Ngubo, the previous deputy mayor. She was brought in together with Tarr and Baijoo to bolster the fast-collapsing municipality last year. However, she is known to have a close links with some unpopular REC members which may count against her.

Former Msunduzi councillor Sbongile Mkhize, who is among the aggrieved ANC cadres staging a sit-in at the party offices, said the ANC should bring someone in from outside the council to fill Shelembe’s position, as they don’t trust most Msunduzi councillors because of the way they were nominated.

Independent political analyst Dr Siphamandla Zondi said the successor must be nominated after a thorough process of consultation, ensuring that disgruntled members are taken on board and that there are no procedural flaws in the process.

“The first is to lower chances of disgruntlement and the second is to avoid giving those who will remain discontented a factual basis for further disruption.

“However, they should avoid merely rewarding the disgruntled members’ disruptive activities by nominating their preferred candidates. Doing so would encourage anarchy and subversion of organisational process and thus undermine internal democracy.”

Zondi added that the process of nominating a new deputy mayor must not be seen as a merely technical process about names, competencies and qualities, “for the fall of Shelembe says more about underlying politics than meets the eye”.

“These weaknesses in the internal politics of Moses Mabhida Region will have to be fixed ... Otherwise, his successor will soon smell the dead rat that lay under the seat Shelembe occupied. He’ll be booted out.”

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