Johannesburg - The struggling Maluti-a-Phofung municipality in the Free State managed to elect a new mayor, speaker and chief whip following an August by-election that saw the African National Congress (ANC) lose 10 seats to independent candidates.
Thursday's sitting was a second attempt to elect officials. The first meeting held earlier this month lacked a quorum.
The newly elected mayor is Masechaba Mosia Lakaje. She went head to head against Gilbert Mokotso who took over mayorship in 2018. Tumelo Thebe was elected speaker and Betsi Mofokeng chief whip.
All three are from the ANC caucus.
Of the 69 seats, the ANC has 37, down from 47 while the independents now occupying 10 seats. The Economic Freedom Fighters have nine, the Democratic Alliance five and the Dikwankwetla Party of South Africa (DPSA) four. The other parties are the AULA, which has two seats, the African People's Convention (APC) and the African Independent Congress (AIC) with one seat each.
Expelled ANC councillors contested as independent candidates, snatching 10 seats from the governing party. The councillors were among the 16 expelled for defying their party and allegedly voting in a motion of no confidence sitting along with opposition parties to remove ex-mayor Vusimusi Tshabalala in 2018.
Tshabalala was accused of rampant corruption by opposition parties and was replaced by Mokotso. Tshabalala was elected ANC chief whip in the provincial legislature after the May 8 general elections.
In 2018, then cooperative governance minister Zweli Mkhize placed the municipality under administration due to "political instability, poor delivery of services, maladministration, high levels of corruption, poor financial management" and high levels of debt owed to power utility Eskom and other creditors.
Free State Cooperative Governance MEC Thembeni Nxangisa, who was present at Thursday's council sitting, said the new leaders would improve service delivery in Maluti-a-Phofung. The municipality was placed under administration in 2018.
"The Maluti-a-Phofung municipality has been experiencing instabilities and high service delivery protests. The municipality was placed under Section 139 (1)(b) of the Constitution by the provincial government in February 2018 due to failure to perform its constitutional and legislative obligations. The new leadership was introduced to council with the aim of strengthening the administrative performance, improve service delivery and build a transformed municipality."
Maluti-a-Phofung encompasses the towns of Harrismith and Kestell, Phuthaditjhaba as well as sections of Qwaqwa.
African News Agency/ANA