Mtubatuba – Tensions between councillors of the ANC and their long-time rivals, the IFP in Mtubatuba Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, flared up again on Wednesday following a ruling of the Pietermaritzburg High Court the day before.
Similar tensions were last seen in February this year, when the IFP leadership locked out Dr Siya Ntuli, an administrator brought in by the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) to oversee the affairs of the entity.
Reigniting the tensions on Tuesday was the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling in favour of the ANC and KZN cogta MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi by setting aside KZN Acting Judge President Isaac Madondo’s order by consent of April 11, 2022.
PHOTOS: The situation within the premises of Mtubatuba local municipality where there is a stand-off between ANC and IFP councillors following yesterday's ruling of the Pietermaritzburg High Court. The ANC want to take over the running of municipality. @IOL pic.twitter.com/NAyDSjaV9n— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) June 14, 2023
It was submitted to him in the judge’s chambers via the court’s registrar.
The rescission was granted on the basis that the registrar had been duped into believing that all the parties had consented to the order to be certified by the court, when in fact the ANC and its councillors never consented.
Using the now set aside order, the IFP then recalled five ANC councillors that had been sent to the uMkhanyakude District Municipality, the IFP thus becoming the majority party at district-level.
When the matter was heard in the court, lawyers for the IFP attempted to argue that the case was moot since there have been by-elections that granted the party a clear majority in the council and that the matter has been overtaken by events.
However, lawyers for the ANC councillors and MEC Sithole-Moloi argued that it was not moot, and had not been overtaken by events because the impact of the order was to constrain the proper administration of the district municipality, and in any event to the extent that the order ought never to have been obtained as it has had a material impact on the municipality’s governance.
Furthermore, they said it was constitutionally appropriate to consider whether the order had been properly granted in the first instance.
WATCH: There is political chaos at Mtubatuba local municipality in KZN where it is alleged that ANC councillors are demanding to be given the municipality to run after Tuesday's ruling of the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Also in the vicinity is Dr Siya Ntuli. @IOL pic.twitter.com/4jQe4jWeb8— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) June 14, 2023
They stressed that insofar as the order might be determined to have resulted in irregular governance of a municipality contrary to the Constitution and statutory prescripts, it was an innate good to set the order aside if it was irregular even if it had been overtaken by events.
The matter was then heard, culminating in the ruling that threatened the stranglehold of the northern KwaZulu-Natal municipality by the IFP.
On Wednesday, ANC councillors took to the municipal offices and demanded to be given keys to their offices.
However, the councillors who came with their heavily armed bodyguards were blocked by security guards manning the municipal building.
There was a standoff between the councillors and their bodyguards for over five hours, and they later dispersed without finding a solution.
In a statement, the ANC in the Nokuhamba Nyawo region (uMkhanyakude district) said it welcomed the court ruling, and condemned the skirmishes at the municipal offices.
“It should be recalled that on April 11, 2022, KZN Acting Judge President Isaac Madondo ruled that the meeting in Mtubatuba Local Municipality on November 23, 2021 that resulted in the election of the ANC’s Mbongeleni Gina as the mayor was invalid, and set aside.
“The acting judge president also declared invalid the election of five ANC councillors from the local municipalities who were sent to the uMkhanyakude District Municipality to represent their political parties,” the ANC in the region said.
The IFP, Cogta and the Mtubatuba Municipality are yet to comment on the latest political and legal developments.
Pending other anticipated legal challenges like appeals to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), the ANC are staying put as the governing party in the district municipality, as is the IFP in Mtubatuba.