Picketing ANC members whose protest had brought service delivery at the uMngeni Municipality to a standstill yesterday scored a major victory following a decision that municipal manager (MM), Thembeka Cibane, should go on special leave.
The protesters, who have accused the municipality’s leadership of corruption and nepotism, have been calling for Cibane’s removal.
Sources within the ANC provincial leadership, which had been mediating between the council leadership and the protesters, told The Witness that Cibane had been placed on special leave effective from Friday.
“Even though the claims by the protesters were yet to be tested, the MM felt that it would be better for her to step aside while an investigation on a number of issues, which by the way were not only raised by the protesters but by a number of other people, was unfolding.
“We applaud the MM for her decision as it prevented putting the ANC provincial leadership in a situation where it would take painful decisions,” the source said.
The protesters, who since Monday last week have been blocking roads and preventing residents from accessing the municipality’s offices, had vowed to continue with their demonstration until the ANC provincial leadership intervened at the municipality.
Following a meeting between the provincial leadership, ANC uMngeni Municipality councillors and Cibane, a delegation of the party’s highest decision-making structure in KwaZulu-Natal, the provincial executive committee (PEC) yesterday briefed the protesters about the outcome of the consultations.
While there were still some outstanding issues which the protesters want the ANC provincial leadership to attend to, their spokesperson, Wonder Potgieter, said they were happy with the decision on Cibane.
“While we understand that there are processes that need to be followed before the MM is officially placed on special leave, we are of the view that it would be better for everybody should she be placed on leave with immediate effect.
“However, having said that, we are impressed with the fact that the ANC leadership was beginning to take decisive action in the uMngeni Municipality. As a result, I can confirm that we have resolved to put our protest on hold to allow the ANC leadership to deal with our grievances,’’ he said.
ANC provincial spokesperson, Nhlakanipho Ntombela, said he was unable to comment on the Cibane matter as he was yet to receive a report from the PEC delegation that had been dealing with the uMngeni Municipality issue.
While Cibane could not be reached for comment, ANC Moses Mabhida region task team co-ordinator Mandla Zondi confirmed that she had offered to go on special leave.
The protracted protest was beginning to take a toll on service delivery, with garbage beginning to pile up on the streets as the municipality’s workers were unable to collect refuse.
DA uMngeni Municipality caucus leader Janis Holmes said the protest had left the municipality on the brink of a health crisis.
“There is still this strong smell from the rubbish heaps on the streets and other public places, with flies and maggots all over the place.
“Street vendors selling food were struggling to keep flies at bay, with the stink turning off potential customers. Indeed, the protest had a devastating impact on residents,” she said.