Durban - Political infighting has left the crisis-racked Mpofana Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal without a political head and four ward-based councillors apparently without jobs.
The drastic action taken by the ANC in the province follows more than a week of violent protests by residents - and some municipal employees - that had seen the Mooi River toll plaza on the N3 being blockaded, cars stoned, a library burnt down and a councillor’s house petrol bombed.
Both the ruling ANC and the KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) have intervened in the troubled municipality in a bid to restore order and appease residents.
The ANC would, however, not divulge information on the apparent axing of the five councillors, including mayor Ntombi Mpangase.
“We have intervened and are considering a number of options on dealing with the situation. We are still communicating with the structures of the party,” spokesman Bongani Tembe said on Sunday.
ANC provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, said the matter was dealt with internally.
“I cannot confirm nor deny that councillors were fired,” he said. “We work with the Mooi River community and are working towards finding a lasting solution to the troubles of the municipality.”
Cogta spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, said his department had deployed its “rapid response team” to monitor the situation at the municipality.
“The protesters included some municipal employees. For that reason we had to deploy our team to ensure services are provided to residents.”
On the four councillors and the mayor apparently being fired - and reports that the municipality was placed under administration - Mabaso said the issues in Mpofana were not administrative, but political.
“First off, the municipality is not under administration. We have not made an announcement to that effect. We are the only department with the powers to place municipalities under administration. In this case we have not done that, because the issues in that municipality are political, not administrative. Services are delivered. There is water, sanitation, electricity and roads, so the protests were not service-delivery related,” said Mabaso.
“There are rumours that there’s infighting among councillors, with sections of the council calling for the removal of the mayor. On that level, Cogta doesn’t get involved. Political structures deal with it.”
The municipality has seen a number of violent protests since last year.
Last week residents of Bruntville blockaded the N3, forcing traffic onto alternate routes.
One the five councillors, Justice Shabalala, whose house came under attack last Sunday, referred the Daily News to the ANC when contacted for comment on Sunday.
“Only the ANC can comment on what’s happening in the municipality. At midnight on Sunday my house was petrol bombed. Fortunately the fire was contained,” he said. “I have received threats before.”
Councillor Zweli Dladla would also not comment.
Calls seeking comment were also made to mayor Mpangase and the other councillors, but they had not responded by the time of publication.
Police are still visible in the Mooi River area, although the protests have since died down.