ANC Gauteng battles over Emfuleni mayor

Jacob Khawe
Jacob Khawe

ANC Gauteng’s decision to dissolve the Sedibeng regional executive committee in the Vaal has raised the stakes in the race to find a replacement for outgoing Emfuleni mayor Jacob Khawe, who is supposed to take a full-time post as the Gauteng ANC secretary.

The Gauteng provincial conference was held in July, when Khawe was elected into office, but he has so far managed to cling to the mayoral post.

Khawe was emboldened at the weekend when a provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting took a decision to nullify the regional executive.

On November 12 the region, which exercises control and oversight on local councils, said Khawe should step down in five days. The region was dissolved two days after the deadline passed.

City Press heard the disbandment was intended to sideline the regional executive so that the provincial executive, dominated by Khawe’s backers, could appoint its preferred mayor.

Former Sedibeng district municipality mayor Mlungisi Hlongwane has been mentioned as the Khawe group’s preferred candidate; the region is touting its chairperson Thulani Kunene.

Violence broke out in Vereeniging last Sunday and municipal property was vandalised when disgruntled ANC members rejected the Gauteng ANC’s resolution to disband Sedibeng because of claims that the structure was illegitimate.

“Branches were angry and the meeting turned violent,” said an insider, adding that among those who had been sent to communicate the decision to the branches were deputy ANC provincial chairperson Panyaza Lesufi, former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and Khawe.

Regional spokesperson Boniface Mazilazila said the altercation resulted after members refused to allow bouncers to become a part of the meeting.

Mazilazila said the meeting was nullified and it was agreed it should be postponed to allow structures to focus on preparations for next year’s general elections and branch general meetings to finalise candidates for the provincial election list.

He said the region insisted on a transitional process that would result in Khawe exiting the Emfuleni municipality and a new mayor being appointed.

Gauteng ANC spokesperson Tasneem Motara said she was “unable to respond to any of the questions as they relate to decisions of a PEC meeting held this past Sunday”.

“But the PEC will release a statement regarding all decisions taken at that meeting and, as is the norm, the PEC will respond to any clarities if needed.”

The dissolution flew on the face of an instruction from the office of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule on October 25 that “provinces should desist from dissolving regional structures”.

Magashule said in a letter to provincial secretaries that “the dissolution of regional structures at this time detracts from the unity project that the organisation has set for itself and could lead to more divisions”.

A Luthuli House report by ANC head of organising Senzo Mchunu, seen by City Press, recommended a political solution to questions about the legitimacy of the Sedibeng ANC regional executive, including “a feasible and inclusive leadership mechanism” and “a well-considered programme to reconcile, unite and renew members and the organisation”.

Mchunu said there was confusion about ward demarcations, poor resolution of disputes, poor communication of decisions to affected structures and weaknesses in the branch membership audit processes.

“There is a need for the organisation to ensure integrity and credibility of its organisational processes to eliminate or minimise tension, hatred, divisions and sometimes conditions for violence to erupt at ANC meetings, all of which turn comrades at branch level to victims,” he said.

In July the aggrieved branches went to court to challenge the outcome of the regional conference a month earlier, but Mchunu said there was a commitment to settle the matter out of court.

City Press heard claims that business interests were at the centre of the scuffle to find Khawe’s replacement. Sources cited a looming fight over who was going to award an outstanding contract for the management of the municipality’s vehicle fleet.

The regional leaders intend to petition the national executive committee to review the decision and anticipate that such a review would suspend the decision to disband Sedibeng region.

Setumo Stone
Political journalist
City Press
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