Tarr leads new team

2010-03-26 00:00

THERE’S a new sheriff in town.

In what can be described as a classic case of “out with the old, in with the new”, Msunduzi’s all-new political leadership was finally announced yesterday, bringing an end to a week in which the city was leaderless.

At last, the rumour mill can be put to rest now that speculation that Mike Tarr will take over as mayor is confirmed.

The son of former Pietermaritzburg mayor Ashton Tarr, who served from 1975 to 1976, the newly appointed mayor lives up to the famous saying, “ like father, like son ”.

To assist him in steering the city is new Deputy Mayor Jabu Nguba. An ANC activist who is an educator by profession, Nguba has extensive experience working with working-class communities.

Executive committee (Exco) members who have retained their positions are Tholakele Dlamini and Gerrit Meyer.

Najma Ahmed, Sipho Madondo and Eunice Majola have been brought in to replace ousted former Exco members Themba Zungu, Pops Chetty and Zonke Mbatha.

Chetty and Mbatha will still serve on the council, but their demotion will place them on an equal footing with ordinary councillors.

At this stage, the political future of outsed former mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo, former deputy mayor Mervyn Dirks and Zungu has yet to become clear.

Former council speaker Alpha Shelembe has been forced to make way for Babu Baijoo. A well-respected councillor with vast experience, Baijoo also serves as the national president of the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Chief whip Sehla Ngubane still reigns supreme in his position, and did not even bother to resign.

At a press briefing held at the ANC regional offices yesterday, the party’s provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, apologised for delaying the announcement, but joked that journalists had managed to keep themselves busy by writing speculative stories.

He said that the council members who were replaced did not take offence, and the new team will help stabilise the municipality and ensure service delivery.

Asked why some councillors were retained, Zikalala said they were reinstated for the sake of continuity. “We can’t just take everybody out. We need some to remain as they understand how things work,” he said.

On the role of the new leadership now that Johann Mettler has been appointed by Local Government MEC Nomusa Dube to take over municipal administration, Zikalala said: “Comrades deployed will provide political oversight, while Mettler will provide administrative oversight.”

The city hall was abuzz yesterday afternoon as councillors, senior government officials and members of the public packed the venue in anticipation of the announcement.

One city hall employee remarked: “In the 10 years that I have worked here, I’ve never seen the public gallery as packed as it is today.”

Inkatha Freedom Party caucus leader Dolo Zondi, who was nominated as a mayoral candidate alongside Democratic Alliance caucus leader Bill Lambert, said he knows Tarr will make a good mayor because “he is a product of the IFP”.

The reference to Tarr’s previous years as an IFP member before he defected to the ANC caused laughter. After the laughter died down, Zondi said: “The IFP will give its full support and we hope for the best. This municipality has been in trouble for a long time, but we’re happy with the ANC’s decision.”

Lambert also offered his party’s support, saying: “We hope Tarr can rectify the ANC’s previous mismanagement.”

But he struggled to finish his statement when ANC councillors heckled him. Addressing Tarr later, he said : “We wish you good luck, you’ll need it.”

Tarr said he is confident that if everyone plays by the rules and favours transparency, the disastrous situation will be turned around.

Nguba said: “We’re thankful that our organisation has confidence in us. We promise Msunduzi residents that we will do everything in our power to give effective service delivery — not as individuals linked to certain political parties, but as a team.”

LOCAL Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube said yesterday’s announcement signalled a breath of fresh air and she was confident in the new leadership.

“It’s the beginning of putting the city back as not only the city of choice, but also the city of glory where people can be proud and confident of living here,” she said.

Dube said the diverse experience and expertise coming in with those taking over the reins would steer things in the right direction and she had no doubt that they would unite as a team.

A lot of work lies ahead, said Dube, as a lot has happened and policies and systems will have to be re-looked thoroughly to get things back on track.

Three weeks ago, the ANC critically analysed each Msunduzi councillor over a four-day period before coming to this decision.

“I think a lot of lessons have been learned about what has happened. Elected officials have to take responsibility and the department is still dealing with administrative issues,” she said.

Should Haswell return next Thursday when he is due back, Dube said he will be a municipal manager with no powers as Mettler is now heading administration.

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