Factional lines were evident in Pietermaritzburg today as a mass absence of African National Congress (ANC) councillors – allegedly aligned to former president Jacob Zuma – led to the collapse of a Msunduzi council sitting.
The unprecedented absence led to fears that the municipality was heading for a collapse due to infighting among ANC councillors. As opposition parties called for tough sanctions against ruling party councillors, Speaker Jabu Ngubo, mayor Themba Njilo and chief whip Truman Magubane were unable to provide answers on what led to the mass absence of their members. Only 39 councillors attended the 78-seat council sitting.
Senior councillors Thobani Zuma, Eunice Zondi, Sphamandla Khumalo, Nokthula Msimang, Tholakele Dlamini and Philisiwe Sithole, who are all committee chairpersons and serve on the council executive ommittee, sent apologies indicating that they were unable to attend.
Veteran DA councillor Bill Lambert decried the development which he said demanded leadership, and appealed to the mayor to take action on the matter to avoid further ruin of the city.
“I have served in this council for many years under different ANC mayors and I can safely say that this is unprecedented. My appeal to you is that please attend to this matter. We want you to go down as the mayor who saved our city from near collapse,” said Lambert.
He added that current developments, including lack of attending to council reports, indicated a decline in governance at Msunduzi municipality. He also noted the absence of city manager Sizwe Hadebe, who has not attended a council sitting since an audio clip allegedly featuring him surfaced over two months ago.
The Speaker said she was disappointed with the mass absence as the meeting had been well communicated. “When there was a meeting of councillors on 30 May it was agreed that because there was a massive volume of items to be discussed a special meeting would be held today,” said Ngubo in explaining her dilemma.
Ngubo has been an ANC councillor since 2010 when the city went into administration and she expressed concern that the sitting did not take place. She said if the conduct of councillors was not attended to the city ran the risk of being put under administration. “One of the reasons that the city went under administration in 2010 was because the outstanding council matters were not dealt with by councillors in meetings, and they kept piling up. My fear is that by not attending, councillors are driving the municipality towards that direction,” said Ngubo.
According to the chief whip, councillors had sent apologies and no disciplinary action could be taken against them. “Council rules allowed for punitive action to be taken once councillors had not attended three successive meetings without an apology,” said Magubane.
The aborted council sitting came a day after municipal officials and councillors were heavily criticised by Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) during an oversight meeting on Tuesday over the state of finances at the municipality.
MPLs charged that councillors were allowing politics to get in the way of their functions and that such conduct posed a danger of collapsing the KwaZulu-Natal capital. This was in reference to the municipality getting a disclaimer audit during the 2016/17 financial year.
– African News Agency (ANA)