The ANC in Mpumalanga will meet its disgruntled councillors in Msukaligwa next week to avoid the total collapse of the council. This comes after 14 councillors threatened to resign en masse in protest against the regional leadership.
The party has been struggling with rebellious councillors in the Gert Sibande region since the November 1 local government elections.
In that region, the ANC lost two municipalities – Mkhondo (Piet Retief) and Lekwa (Standerton) – to independents and civic organisations, respectively, due to the party’s infighting.
Msukaligwa could be next if the ANC does not find a way to resolve the factional conflict.
The strife in the Ermelo-based municipality has its roots in a disputed proportional representative list that saw the names of two mayoral candidates allegedly being shifted from the top to the bottom of the final list that was submitted to the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) ahead of the polls.
Mzwakhe Thabethe and Shirley Nkosi were initially numbers one and two on the list that the ANC submitted to the IEC, but their names were inexplicably placed at numbers 18 and 19 at the IEC.
As a result, when the council met after the elections, it had to appoint an interim mayor, Aggy Mahlalela, Speaker (Ncane Madini) and chief whip (Samkelo Buthelezi), while the ANC tried to correct the discrepancy on the proportional representative list.
The interim arrangement has, however, resulted in more problems than solutions.
The councillors, influenced by factional leaders within the ANC’s Gert Sibande region, have defied the party’s decisions and used their temporary power to enforce their own wishes.
The Gert Sibande regional executive committee asked Mahlalela, Madini and Buthelezi to step down, but they refused. The region recommended to the provincial executive committee (PEC) that the trio’s membership be suspended and that they be subjected to a disciplinary process.
Fourteen councillors have since threatened to resign if Mahlalela, Madini and Buthelezi go.
City Press has seen the letter dated January 17 that the councillors wrote to ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, expressing their concerns about the proportional representative list and corruption.
Acting provincial ANC chairperson Mandla Ndlovu said the PEC would meet the ANC caucus in Msukaligwa next week, but watered down the threat by these councillors that they could hand the municipality over to opposition parties on a silver platter.
“People who defy the ANC can’t win by-elections. They’re still ANC members and we’ll engage with them. The fact that they’ve written to [Duarte] shows that they’re willing to engage,” said Ndlovu.
Msukaligwa is the second municipality in Mpumalanga with a mayor who was not appointed by the ANC. Nkomazi mayor Johan Mkhatshwa defied the party and accepted a nomination from renegade ANC councillors, supported by the EFF, to be elected mayor of the Malalane-based municipality.
Mkhatshwa is still in the mayoral seat and has defied the ANC’s instruction to step down after just two months in the position.