As the jostling for leadership positions heats up ahead of the ANC Moses Mabhida regional conference in March, the knives are out for Msunduzi Mayor Mzi Thebolla, barely six months after his appointment.Reliable sources within the ANC in the region say that a powerful bloc within the party now wants Thebolla removed from his post.“Initially they were fully behind him but relations soured after he showed interest in standing as a candidate in the upcoming ANC regional elective conference.“They are now trying to paint him as an incompetent person so they can get him removed as Msunduzi mayor,” a source said.This as a group within the ANC in the region is said to be aggressively lobbying party branches in the region to vote for Thebolla to become regional chairperson during the upcoming conference.The campaign to get Thebolla elected is said to have angered the current ANC regional top brass within the Regional Task Team (RTT), led by the party’s KZN Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) Thulani “Two-Way” Xulu. Thebolla, who was appointed as Msunduzi mayor in August following the removal of the previous council top brass led by former mayor Themba Njilo, is currently a member of the RTT.The RTT, which also includes uMshwathi Local Municipality mayor Mandla Zondi, who is the co-ordinator of the top ANC regional leadership structure, is close to the party’s provincial chairperson and Premier Sihle Zikalala.However, according to sources within the ANC in the region, members of the RTT are split, with one faction supporting Xulu and another supporting Thebolla. “This issue around the regional conference has divided them in the middle ... they are now pulling in different directions. They are no longer in agreement on how problems in municipalities such as Msunduzi should be addressed,” the source said.The divisions within the ANC RTT have left the party in the region with three groupings; one loyal to Xulu, another backing Thebolla and the remainder supporting previous party regional leaders such as former Msunduzi deputy mayor Thobani Zuma and former KZN Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane.Thebolla was appointed as Msunduzi mayor as part of the ANC plan to turn around the local government paralysed by corruption and maladministration. Since the arrival of Thebolla and the new council leadership team, several senior managers accused of wrongdoing in Msunduzi have either been suspended or dismissed. However, the latest divisions within the ANC in the region are now threatening to derail efforts to fix the troubled municipality. Asked about the tensions between him and other ANC leaders in the region, Thebolla was diplomatic in his response. “It is a known fact that there are certain things which happen when a conference is approaching. If there are people going around saying this or that person should stand as a candidate there is very little that could be done about that.“However, the unfortunate part is when people drag the Msunduzi Municipality into ANC internal affairs. As you would know, the damage done to the municipality over the years is severe ... it will take a while to fix some of the problems in the municipality and one had hoped that people will give the ANC’s interventions in the municipality a chance. The new council leadership has been in office for a few months and the main task it had been seized with in that short period had been to win back the trust of the residents. If there are people who have issues with me within the ANC then those should be resolved through the relevant party channels,” he said.Xulu denied that there were tensions within the RTT. “Since our appointment in December we have been working as a collective. We are currently busy preparing branches for the regional conference and we will not allow rumour mongers to distract us from the mandate which the ANC has given us.“Working together with the mayor and the Msunduzi Municipality leadership collective, the ANC has been able to register some quick successes in the municipality and where we believe wrong things had been done we have taken corrective action. The issue of tensions is completely false. We wouldn’t have been able to introduce meaningful changes in the municipality if there were these divisions which people are talking about,” he said.