Durban’s deputy mayor vacuum
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DURBAN - THE ANC in eThekwini Municipality is facing pressure from opposition parties to fill the city’s deputy mayor position that has been vacant for almost two months.
Opposition parties yesterday warned the ANC-controlled council to make the long-awaited appointment, saying the party should remember that this was a critical municipal position that was essential for service delivery. The deputy mayor post became vacant following the resignation of Belinda Scott.
Former deputy mayor Fawzia Peer and Themba Shelembe, the deputy chairperson of the finance committee, are apparently among the names mentioned as preferred candidates for the position. Attempts to reach them yesterday were unsuccessful.
Sources in the ANC caucus said filling the post of deputy mayor was the responsibility of the provincial leadership, which was keeping a tight lid on possible candidates. They said filling the post was also a delicate balancing act as there were many competing interests and many people wanted the position.
During a council meeting last week, DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa pressed the Speaker Weziwe Thusi on why the position had been vacant for two months.
“Why have you not tabled the item of the deputy mayor? ... The position of the DA is that we are deeply concerned that we have not had the position of deputy mayor for 60 days now.
“The position of the deputy mayor does not belong to the ANC, it belongs to this municipality which is a public entity. For two months now, there is no chairperson of finance to play that oversight role on the finances of the city. This is a very serious matter that we should not take lightly,” he said.
IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi said it was concerning that the ANC, which has the majority in the council, had not filled the vacancy.
“What is more critical is that if the mayor is not available and there is no deputy mayor, that might compromise the ability of some exco meetings to be able to sit. If the mayor is not available, the deputy mayor is supposed to be there to continue with the work,” he said.
An ANC councillor, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the Gumede faction (those in the ANC eThekwini caucus who support former mayor Zandile Gumede) has not endorsed anybody but preferred that the next deputy mayor be appointed from among the serving councillors.
“We do not support a situation that prevailed when Scott was parachuted from the province to become the city's deputy mayor. Look at the problems at Metro Police that Scott failed to resolve. We want someone who is going to hit the ground running and not a person who will have to be taught how local government works.“
He said councillors in the municipality had no objection to Scott's deputy chairperson in the finance committee (Shelembe) or former deputy mayor Peer assuming the position.
Another councillor expressed the same sentiments, saying they would prefer someone who is a serving councillor.
Another councillor said the region was playing its cards close to the chest.
“It would have been futile for the councillors to suggest a name because the decision ultimately is that of the provincial leadership. The region is divided and there will be elections soon, so the position might be used as a bargaining chip,” said the source.
The source added that returning Peer to the position would also be unwise.
“The entire exco was fired because of poor performance, but they made a mistake and left Sipho Kaunda there, so if they now bring back someone from the old exco that will raise a lot of questions,” he said.
ANC spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said the matter was still being discussed by the officials and once the party had made a decision it would be communicated to the public.
He dismissed concerns that the delays were the result of ANC factions jostling for the position.
“There are only four months left in that position. Why would many people be jostling for it?”
Ntombela said it would not make sense for people to clamour for the position because even if the person was appointed to complete this term there was no guarantee that they would continue in the position after the election.