Bitou mayor Peter Lobese File picture: Facebook
Plettenberg Bay – Bitou became a hung council following the announcement by its mayor that the coalition agreement between the Active United Front (AUF) and the African National Congress (ANC) had been terminated.

Bitou mayor Peter Lobese, who is a member of the AUF, announced on Tuesday evening that the decision was partly taking a stand with the rest of the country in protest against President Jacob Zuma.

This follows national outcry after Zuma’s recent decision to fire the country’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas during a cabinet reshuffle last week.

The decision has since not only taken its toll on South Africa’s economy, which has been downgraded to junk status by S&P Global. Lobese stated that the decision was also based a crumbling relationship with the ANC in Bitou over the past seven months.

The AUF and ANC in Bitou had been in a coalition since last year’s local government elections which saw the DA obtain six seats in council, the ANC six and the AUF a single seat. Following the coalition agreement which saw the AUF align with the ANC, Lobese was inaugurated as the town’s mayor.

“I join the rest of South Africans home and abroad who are troubled and pained by this ‘rogue’ President to make the point that our country cannot afford him and nothing must be done to assist him to continue being in office even for one day, this include calling all parties like the AUF who are in coalition with the ANC in various municipalities to act in solidarity with the rest of South Africans and pull out of these coalitions. So we shall do,” Lobese said in his statement.

While he explained why he had made the decision, he did not indicate what the implications for the municipality would be or if he planned on forming a coalition with another party and said he would address the media on Thursday.

Lobese said the coalition with the ANC in Bitou and had been guided by the “central objective of serving the people of Bitou”.

“It has been almost impossible in the past seven months to operate with single-mindedness with the colleagues in the ANC. More often than not, any attempt at the establishment of clean administration and committing resources to address the difficulties faced by our people has been thwarted by those in leadership of the ANC whose principal task seem to be to divert the public resources into their private pockets,” Lobese said.

“They have in our view positioned themselves firmly in competition or as enemies of the people we are required to serve.”

Lobese said that he had hoped this would subside and that the ANC’s national leadership would intervene, but that the events around Zuma over the past week had “destroyed any hope” of the situation improving.

Lobese said the “wanton disregard” of the country’s Constitution by Zuma and his ministers compelled him to question the relevance and basis of the AUF’s coalition with the ANC. Acting ANC regional secretary Victor Molosi confirmed the coalition termination, but said he could not comment on the matter as the information about the decision had not filtered through to the regional or provincial ANC leadership.

DA constituency head in Bitou Donald Grant however said that coalition talks with the AUF were already underway.

He added that the fact that Bitou had become a hung council would not affect the running of the town as the municipality was between council meetings at the moment. “Hopefully by the next council meeting there will be more clarity,” Grant said.