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Tensions brew over eThekwini city manager post, smaller parties angry over being excluded from the process

Disagreements over who should be the next eThekwini city manager are said to have reached fever pitch at council, raising questions about the state of the ANC-led coalition in KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest municipality.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda is expected to present a report before the executive committee (Exco) members today on the selection process for the city manager position Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 29, 2022

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DURBAN - DISAGREEMENTS over who should be the next eThekwini city manager are said to have reached fever pitch at council, raising questions about the state of the ANC-led coalition in KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest municipality.

The appointment of the city manager has become a thorny issue after rumours circulated recently alleging the involvement of KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala on who would be the next city boss.

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Today, mayor Mxolisi Kaunda is expected to present a report before executive committee (Exco) members on how the selection process for the city’s top post has gone.

He had said at a meeting last week, that the report would show that there was no interference with the selection process.

Among the candidates rumoured to be in the running for the job are Sbu Sithole, Max Mbili from the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality and the current acting city manager of eThekwini, Musa Mbhele.

Sithole, a seasoned official in local government, is the former manager of the municipality and twice was the administrator of the Msunduzi Municipality.

Sithole declined to speak on whether he applied for the job and whether he had been interviewed.

“I cannot comment on that as the process is confidential and it has always been like that.”

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Attempts to reach Mbili and Mbhele were unsuccessful yesterday.

Mbili is said to be preferred by the provincial ANC.

Tensions are said to have heightened among parties in the coalition with the ANC as sources said that deputy mayor Philani Mavundla and his “bloc”, that had supported the ANC to allow it to clinch control of the municipality after last November’s elections, were not consulted and not included in the process.

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Several councillors speaking on condition of anonymity said the process to appoint the city manager was flawed.

They warned that the ANC was no longer a majority party and needed the assistance of the other parties to push through a candidate.

They said if they did not approve of the candidate, they would block the appointment.

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A councillor who is a member of the bloc of smaller parties that vote with the ANC said the way the ANC had handled the issue of the appointment of the city manager had created the potential to destabilise the entire coalition.

“These ANC guys are still behaving as though they have the majority, and they do not. I am telling you that if the voting bloc of smaller parties do not approve of the candidate, there will be a stalemate,” said the councillor.

The councillor said he was aware that Mavundla was meeting with the ANC provincial leaders yesterday.

He said that Mavundla had not been briefed on the process to appoint the city manager.

“The coalition partners were not briefed on this, Mavundla was not briefed on this and he should have been made part of the process from the onset.”

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the party would like to see the Presidency intervene in the issue of appointing a city manager on account of the metro being integral to the economy of the province, and its failure potentially being catastrophic for the province.

“We cannot ask the Premier, Sihle Zikalala, to intervene as he (spoke) in the meeting where the ANC discussed the appointment of the city manager, so we would like the Presidency to intervene.

“EThekwini cannot afford to have a city manager who is appointed on political grounds,” said Nkosi

One IFP councillor said he was aware that a senior ANC councillor had spoken to Nkosi, on the coalition issue, saying that it would have been better if the ANC had gone into a coalition with the IFP, because the coalition with many small parties was unstable due to their different interests.

Nkosi declined to speak on this conversation but said from the outside the coalition does not look strong.

“We had thought the coalition might last for at least a year, but looking at it now, I fear that the year might be too long.”

EFF Exco member Thabane Miya said they were looking forward to the report from Kaunda and were hoping that it would provide clarity on the selection process.

“The mayor was certain that the process had not been compromised, we will know from the report whether this is in fact true,” said the EFF councillor.

Mayoral spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said he could not comment on the concern that unhappiness about the process might destabilise or collapse the coalition.

“All I can say is that the process has been transparent and above board and once it is concluded, the mayor will make an announcement.”

Late yesterday, Mavundla confirmed that he had met with the ANC leadership yesterday but said issues that were discussed related to the Human Settlements and Infrastructure municipal committee, which he chairs.

He denied that the matter of the city manager post was discussed.

“I can safely confirm with you that this was not on the agenda.”

Regarding support for candidates vying for the city manager post, he said once the names were made public, “we will take it from there”.

THE MERCURY

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