DURBAN - THE bloc of smaller parties supporting the ANC in its governance of the eThekwini Municipality has dismissed concerns that its coalition with the party is on the brink of collapse.
In an interview with The Mercury, the recently elected whip of the bloc, Muzi Hlengwa, said the coalition with the ANC was stable and the party had delivered on most of the promises it made to the bloc. Hlengwa is the leader of the African People First party.
Several small parties are in a coalition government with the ANC and provide it with the 17 votes it needs to govern the only metro in the province.
Several things have happened since the council was established, leading to concerns that the coalition was no longer stable.
First, the president of the Abantu Batho Congress and the deputy mayor of the city, Philani Mavundla, voted against the appointment of a city manager on the grounds that he and his bloc had not been consulted on the matter.
Mavundla is also an executive committee (exco) member and the chairperson of the human settlements and infrastructure portfolio committee, a position he secured through being part of the bloc of the smaller parties.
Secondly, there have been reports that there are tensions between Mavundla and leaders of the ANC in the exco and Mavundla was feeling undermined by the ANC.
Lastly, the bloc of smaller parties recently formalised their co-operation by electing a leadership structure and Mavundla is not part of the leadership structure, despite having been the cornerstone of the initial forming of the bloc and the coalition government.
This has led to speculation that he has fallen out of favour with the bloc.
A source within the bloc said Mavundla was no longer popular within it and could leave. “This bloc is unstable and by extension the coalition and the leadership of the city and could collapse any moment.”
But Hlengwa denied this. “Mavundla being left out of the leadership of the bloc has created a lot of confusion. We need to clarify this. We are still happy with his leadership, he was left out because he is deployed by the bloc to the positions he holds in the leadership of the city. He has to account to the bloc. If he was elected to any position within the bloc, he would essentially be accounting to himself,” said Hlengwa.
“We are still happy with the partnership with the ANC, which has delivered on the things it had promised; we will not vote with any other party and that means the municipality is stable.”
He said among the things that they were promised was the position of Municipal Public Accounts Committee (Mpac) chairperson.
“The position on Mpac that was once occupied by Makhosi Khoza, former member of ActionSA, belongs to the bloc; when she left, the position remained behind and we will choose someone to fill that vacancy.
“The position of deputy mayor belongs to the bloc; if Mavundla were to ever leave, which I do not believe will happen, the position will remain behind,” Hlengwa said.
He said the reports regarding tension between the mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, and Mavundla should not be seen as conflict between the bloc and the ANC.
“There is always tension between the people who work together, but the tension does not mean there is a feud between the bloc and the ANC.
“People should also not interpret what happened with the city manager (an appointment they voted against) as part of the tension.
“The ANC was supposed to consult us, it did not. We believed, and still do, that there was political interference with the appointment, and the decision to make the appointment was taken elsewhere, and that is why the people that were supposed to consult us did not,” he said.
ANC eThekwini region secretary Musa Nciki recently said it was important for the ANC to engage with its coalition partners, as it was not governing alone, to ensure stability in the council.
Political analyst Bheki Mngomezulu expressed dismay about the parties electing a “leadership” for the bloc.
He said such an arrangement was unheard of in politics.
“Maybe they could explain to us how this will work, it’s unheard of. You cannot form such a structure where there is already a (leadership) structure in place (for the city), especially while you are still in the coalition.”
He expressed scepticism of any power this leadership arrangement gives to the bloc.
“They cannot recall the people who are in those positions without the ANC, it’s the ANC that won the election, they are there supporting the ANC.”