Mangaung mayhem – fresh blows for embattled ANC as DA snatches key position, workers crash council meeting
From potholes and fuming council workers to questions around members’ loyalty, the setbacks keep on coming for the ruling party in the Mangaung metro.
The ANC-led Mangaung metro council has suffered blow after blow this year, particularly over the past two days. The biggest hit came on Wednesday when the party lost the Speaker position to the DA.
This is despite the fact that the ANC obtained just over 50% control of the metro after the 2021 local elections.
The shock result prompted an urgent meeting of the party’s provincial executive committee, where ANC officials in the metro were asked “what happened that the 51 ANC councillors did not carry out the mandate of the party as agreed upon in a party caucus before the sitting”, said Free State ANC spokesperson Jabu Mbalula.
“We are still dealing with the issue,” he said on Wednesday night, adding: “We don’t need support of anyone in a council sitting as the party is the majority in the council.”
The IEC presided over the election through a secret ballot. IEC spokesperson Mmathabo Rasengane says 96 of the total of 101 councillors attended. Three ballots were spoilt and a majority (53) voted in DA councillor Maryke Davies.
Mbalula said a report on what transpired during the late-night sitting was tabled and the officials were tasked with coming up with a report that would pave the way forward.
“If anybody conducted him/herself in contravention of the decision that was taken in the caucus of the ANC, then the organisation will have to apply Rule 25 of our constitution,” he said.
“The ANC is the ultimate authority and once any of its members/councillors act in contravention of a party caucus and that mandate, we will have to take steps. Obviously we will follow all the internal processes, but this matter is extremely urgent. The ANC is in this position – not out of its own – but by residents of the metro, so we don’t have a second or a day to waste,” Mbalula responded to a question about the deadline for the action report from the party’s officials.
The metro’s numbers in terms of political parties are:
- ANC 51
- DA 26
- EFF 12
- FF+ 5
- AASD 2
- PA 2
- ACDP 1
- AIC 1
- ATM 1
The election came on the heels of another blow to the ruling party, this time courtesy of municipal workers who had downed tools and disrupted the sitting to voice anger over the non-payment of overtime and the partial payment of salaries.
Afrikan Alliance of Social Democrats (AASD) councillor Lucky Mongale confirmed that the workers disrupted the council meeting on Wednesday afternoon, adding that councillors were shocked to learn the workers had been paid only a portion of their salaries and outstanding overtime payments. Mongale said workers were promised that outstanding payments would be made, but it is not clear when.
The workers’ protest and the tense political situation has also led to the cancellation of another council sitting, scheduled for Thursday, at which the election of a new mayor for the metro topped the agenda.
In an interview with Daily Maverick, the newly elected Speaker said some managers of the metro and councillors had received threats, so this “important sitting” was cancelled.
It had been cancelled and not postponed because they were waiting for the situation to return to normal before a new date could be set.
Mongale said councillors were not intimidated by the disruption on Wednesday and went ahead and elected a speaker “of their choice”.
He also charged: “We believe some of the members of the team from National Treasury – that is supposed to rescue the ailing financial municipality – have instead become entangled in internal politics and orchestrated this labour unrest to divert attention from the election of a Speaker today (Wednesday).”
Problems upon problems
Wednesday’s meeting was preceded by yet more setbacks for the ANC, including harsh words from the party’s secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, about the state of the metro.
And, leading up to Wednesday’s sitting, the Speaker’s job became vacant after the ANC’s Stefani Lockman-Naidoo resigned from her position and the party in the province, while the Free State’s newly elected Provincial Executive Committee also recalled Mangaung mayor Mxolisi Siyonzana, which was followed by a major shake-up of the provincial executive council at its provincial conference.
The ANC narrowly retained control of the metro after the local government elections in 2021.
ActionSA Free State chairperson Patricia Kopane said her party noted the election of Davies as Speaker and hoped it would bring stability to the municipality, which has been volatile for some time. “(The) ANC’s infighting saw them lose this position. We applaud the ANC members who chose Mangaung over their party by voting with their conscience,” she said.
Another sitting is scheduled for Thursday for the election of a mayor.
A request for comment from metro spokesperson Qondile Khedama had not been answered. DM