Another battle is looming in Tlokwe, where the DA faces off against the ANC to retain the top seat in the local municipality. The North West has been a real headache for the ANC because it is dominated by ruling party infighting and schisms, and Tlokwe is no different. Some local ANC councillors say they will defy their leaders and would rather have a DA mayor in town, than allow the old mayor - who has been fingered on corruption allegations - to take back Tlokwe’s reins. By MANDY DE WAAL.
Tuesday 26 February 2013 is the date earmarked for the ANC to take back Tlokwe (which includes Potchefstroom), after the town got a DA mayor three months ago in November 2012. This happened when local councillors brought a vote of no confidence in the former mayor, the ANC staged a walkout, and DA councillor Annette Combrink was elected the new mayor of the town.
The situation in Tlokwe has been an “embarrassment” and a thorn in the side of the ANC since then, and even President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa visited Tlokwe in mid-February to try to heal divisions in the ruling party’s regional base there.
But insiders say the war is still on, and the DA states that it won’t give up Tlokwe without a fight. Tlokwe’s DA mayor, Combrink, tells Daily Maverick she’s ready for a battle and has a few surprises up her sleeve.
“We are not going to give up without a struggle. We have particular avenues open to us, but I don’t want to go into detail because we are planning something of a surprise,” Combrink says in a telephonic interview from Tlokwe.
“We do have legal recourse and there are some technical problems with certain procedures that were followed. There is still a chance that Tlokwe will not return to the ANC on Tuesday,” the incumbent mayor adds.
“We are approaching Tuesday with a plan. Then it will be a matter of having to wait and see if we get a further extension of time in this town. But it is clear that the ANC has not reconciled. The ANC National Working Committee came down on local ANC councillors like a ton of bricks to get the factions to ‘kiss and make up’. Our information is [that] everything is not exactly plain sailing in this regard,” Combrink says.
“President Zuma was here himself telling the two groups to reconcile, but there is still a lot of uncertainty. We do know that there is a lot of pressure on the guys to conform and to vote and bring back the former mayor Maphetle Maphetle, but there is a fair amount of disillusionment and there are people who really do not want to bring him back,” the DA mayor says. Andrew ‘Maphetla’ Maphetla was recalled by the ANC mid-January 2013 after allegedly being involved with corruption.
Daily Maverick is in possession of an ANC document which details the performance of municipal councils in the North West, a province that has been problematic and fractious. Under Tlokwe the report reads:
“Political polarisation within ANC councillors has led to the removal of the ANC Mayor who was replaced by a DA councillor after the ANC lost the vote. This situation has left a huge political dent on the ANC. There is a need for urgent political intervention to restore the ANC’s political authority and the confidence of the local people.”
An ANC heavyweight in Tlokwe says he won’t be quoted on the record, but will speak on condition of anonymity. When asked if the ANC will take the town back, the man laughs broadly. “Will the ANC take back Tlokwe on Tuesday? Now, that is interesting,” he chortles.
Then the ANC insider gets serious. “ANC councillors in Tlokwe feel that they cannot retain a person who has been charged with corruption. The ANC National Working Committee wants the former mayor to be retained, but the council is still standing on the position that they would rather retain the DA mayor than put back a person who would degrade the ANC with his elements of corruption,” he says.
“I am told that there is going to be a march from the community who will be opposing the reinstatement of Maphetla as the mayor. The people here want Lucky Tsagae. The people of Tlokwe are boiling because the ANC doesn’t consult the people of this town about their wishes,” he adds.
The ANC insider tells Daily Maverick that the ANC National Working Committee flew into town, had a meeting with councillors and the provincial executive, but the outcome was a decision to retain Maphetle as mayor despite the allegations of corruption levelled against him. “The Tlokwe councillors reported back to the community and the community say they are not going to allow this thing to happen – they are very angry. The people of Tlokwe have lost trust in Maphetla as well as the ANC provincial chairperson, Supra Mahumapelo, who just makes his own cadre appointments.”
Tuesday, says the ANC insider, is going to be “a very interesting day” because ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe is expected in town to attend the caucus. “We will be looking at another act of defiance from the ANC councillors here. They say that they are willing to be fired from the ANC if that is what it takes, but they are not going to allow a corrupt councillor to lead the municipality”.
The ANC will not only face stiff opposition from its own party’s councillors in Tlokwe, but will also be challenged by the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in the North West. Sanco is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Maphetle is not reinstated as mayor. An ally of the ANC, Sanco says it has a dossier on the former mayor which shows his failure to follow procurement procedures.
Business Day reports that Packet Seaketso, Sanco’s North West secretary, says the dossier includes irregularities regarding the purchase of a R750,000 car for Maphetle’s own use; as well as details on Maphetle’s purchase of a farm which was intended for the community, but which the former mayor is using for himself. There’s also the matter of the alleged misuse of R8.5m in taxpayers’ money to establish the Mooi River Mall in the interests of the community, but which has had no benefit for the people of Tlokwe.
“If the ANC leadership at national level wants to kill the ANC in Potch, they will accept him (Maphetle) to be reinstated,” Seaketso tells Business Day.
Combrink says that she, too, has uncovered a lot of corruption, maladministration and cadre deployment in Tlokwe.
“We are now doing a very intensive forensic investigation into the allegations that were made about the former mayor. We have yet to receive the results of this, and we will get [them] very soon,” Combrink says.
The DA mayor of Tlokwe adds that the municipality has made good progress during the past three months. The municipality has focused on filling vacant posts that were left empty because of cadre deployment and political infighting. Combrink says many of the people hired in the municipality lacked expertise and would sit around “doing nothing all day, which is shameful.”
“There are, however, certain things that are run very well. For one thing, ironically, the finance department runs incredibly well, and our payment rate is 96%, so our revenue streams are very good. But there is a lack of expertise in many positions, and a lot more could be done if this municipality were better managed,” she adds.
“There’s the usual nonsense with tenders, and the municipalities using the services of people who work here, and procurement procedures that aren’t followed, but we are cleaning this all up; it just takes time. All the usual suspects are here; we now need to weed them out, but it is a Herculean task and we need time to do this properly. That’s why we will be putting on a big fight on Tuesday to ensure we can stay,” says Combrink.
Will the DA or the ANC win Tlokwe on Tuesday? It’s anybody’s bet, but what we can be sure of is that a proper showdown will take place in that town, and it will reveal much about how the ruling party manages corruption and dissent. DM
Photo: ANC’s former mayor Maphetle Maphetle and the DA’s current mayor Anette Combrinck.
All tortoises are actually turtles. Some turtles however are not tortoises.