New bid to oust mayor

2009-12-10 00:00

ANOTHER attempt to oust Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo as the council’s political head is on the cards and this time the matter is being discussed at provincial level.

According to sources, who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity, the latest plot has been in motion following a service delivery protest by Willowfountain residents last Thursday.

This is the third attempt this year to remove Hlatshwayo from office. On March 25, the IFP pushed for a vote of no confidence in Hlatshwayo, citing “extravagant expenditure of public funds and arrogant behaviour”. However, in a secret ballot a majority of councillors backed the mayor.

On September 30, a “palace coup” to unseat Hlatshwayo and her executive committee (Exco) failed at the 11th hour after the ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC) intervened.

The ongoing faction fighting between Hlatshwayo’s backers and those of council speaker Alpha Shelembe and an alleged cover-up by senior managers and councillors who have wasted money through shoddy tenders have been cited as factors in the plots.

According to sources, Hlatshwayo’s position hangs by a thread following a joint regional executive committee (REC) and PEC meeting on Monday.

The faction fighting, said sources, is harming service delivery, and thus “something has to give. Either Hlatshwayo or Shelembe is sacked or the municipality will keep sinking”, a source said.

The REC, alleged sources, recommended to the PEC that Hlatshwayo be asked to step down voluntarily to be an ordinary councillor or be deployed elswhere. If she refuses, it was recommended, she should be sacked.

However, the sources said that it is easier said than done to demote or sack Hlatshwayo, who holds a senior position within the ANC as a PEC member, because she chairs the ANC Women’s League’s Moses Mabhida region.

“It’s either they move her to the KZN Legislature or national Parliament. If she is demoted within the council, she might be the speaker and that will not solve the current situation.”

Other sources said the PEC is itself divided on how to deal with the council and that the decision might be delayed for fear that it will cause harm for the party in the 2011 local government elections.

The latest bid to unseat the mayor allegedly emanated from a service delivery protest last week during which marchers claimed that their councillor, Sbu Mkhize (ANC), has failed them.

According to sources, it is alleged that Hlatshwayo was behind the march to discredit Mkhize and that some of the marchers were not even from Willowfountain.

The Witness understands that the PEC questioned the council leadership recently about a series of service delivery marches, asking what the council has done to address the complaints.

Sources said that these marches — including one in Machibisa, during which a R2 million council hall was torched — have been blamed on Hlatshwayo.

However, the mayor’s supporters say she had nothing to do with these events.

Sources said the recent media coverage the council has received — highlighting disregard for local government legislation, flawed tender processes, excessive overtime expenditure and other irregular expenditure — has been blamed by some on leaks by Hlatshwayo.

Other factors that have contributed to the tense relations between Hlatshwayo and Shelembe have to do with senior municipal managers allegedly mismanaging finances. According to sources, the investigations into the R1 067 119 that was allegedly solicited from the municipality to fund an ANC manifesto rally at the beginning of this year and the allegedly flawed awarding of the R240 million meter-reading system tender make some councillors uncomfortable.

In addition, the indication by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (the Hawks) that it will continue the 2006 Scorpions probe and forensic investigation into the municipality has some managers worried, said sources.

The managers and some councillors who are allegedly implicated in shoddy deals want a new Exco elected to take decisions that will delay or quash the investigations, alleged sources.

Attempts to get a comment from Shelembe were unsuccessful.

Hlatshwayo said she does not comment on rumours.

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