The party has its hands full in embattled Maluti-a-Phofung municipality trying to resolve leadership conflicts as well as wasteful expenditure.
The 15 councillors in Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality in the Free State, who were fired by the ANC’s disciplinary committee for misconduct last year, say they are fed up and are breaking away from the party.
“We are expecting hundreds of comrades to be present at a meeting on Monday, where we will be divorcing the ANC,” spokesperson for the councillors Pharatlane Motloung told City Press.
The councillors will be contesting the upcoming by-elections – scheduled to be held on August 28 – as independent candidates.
Maluti-a-Phofung municipality consists of 69 councillors in total.
The decision comes despite this week’s efforts by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) to unite members. Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and senior party leader Siyabonga Cwele led a meeting to resolve the discord among members.
“The NEC instructed all of us, including provincial and regional leaders, to find each other,” said Thabo Meeko, the ANC’s spokesperson in the Free State.
“The ANC national leadership was expecting these comrades to apologise. It instructed us to enlist them into a political rehabilitation programme.”
He said the ANC was unaware of the group’s move to break ranks, adding that the party would have to consult the Constitution to deal with the matter.
“The ANC will never want to lose anybody, but the action that the group has taken surely constitutes anti-ANC conduct. If people are choosing to contest the ANC, then obviously the Constitution must kick in,” he said.
The situation began last year, when the ANC’s provincial executive council (PEC) expelled former executive mayor Vusi Tshabalala in May, after Phuthaditjhaba was rocked by protests over a lack of adequate services.
Finding a replacement for Tshabalala was what sparked the battle between the municipal councillors.
Motloung dismissed reports that the councillors were axed because they had voted to remove Tshabalala and side with the opposition as lies. He said problems arose when Gilbert Mokotso, a man who has been highly critical of Tshabalala, was voted in.
But Mokotso’s reign was short-lived as he is part of the 15-member group who were dismissed.
“They wanted to impose someone else to become the executive mayor. Then some of the councillors opposed this person, claiming that she was part of Tshabalala’s faction – and part of all the wrongs that have occurred in the municipality,” Motloung said.
When asked why the councillors were removed, Meeko said it was because of ill-discipline: “There has been a distortion of the facts, deliberately created to mislead the people of QwaQwa. This campaign of misinformation has been part and parcel of our work moving forward to correct this.
“It started as a matter of ill-discipline; members of the ANC should be loyal to the ANC.
“When the ANC wanted to vote in a new mayor, the people acted against our instruction.”
In addition, the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality has been plagued by financial woes.
It was fingered in Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s report as among those municipalities found to have the wost cases of irregular and wasteful expenditure, and too many vacancies, and to be battling to generate revenue or provide services to residents.
The cash-strapped municipality has been without a mayor for six months and has struggled financially because of maladministration. It was placed under administration in February last year.
For the past few months, municipal workers have been subjected to not knowing whether they will be paid their salaries. The municipality has had to negotiate with Treasury to release the equitable share grant to pay its workers.
The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has threatened mass action against the municipality, saying that management has continuously disappointed workers but has not been held accountable
Earlier this month, the DA in the Free State sent a letter to Dlamini-Zuma, urging her to dissolve the municipality.
The DA’s Leona Kleynhans said the party had not received a reply, but added that the deputy minister for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Parks Tau, had held a meeting with councillors from the area and had proposed a provincial and national joint intervention.
“We have had task teams for years in the municipality, and although we hope it will bring some relief, we as the DA remain sceptical,” Kleynhans said.
Maluti-a-Phofung municipality comprises four areas: QwaQwa Rural, Phuthaditjhaba, Harrismith and Kestell.
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