Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale was not joined by senior ANC leadership in Durban during an on-site inspection. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

Durban - Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale was snubbed by the senior leadership of the eThekwini municipality when it failed to arrive for an inspection of the country’s largest housing project, Cornubia, north of Durban, on Thursday.

The move is believed to be part of the continuing leadership battle before the ANC elective conference in Mangaung where two groupings are squaring up over whether ANC president Jacob Zuma should be retained or removed from the helm of the movement.

Apparently city officials and politicians were not happy with Sexwale’s visit to the flagship housing project just weeks before the all-important Mangaung conference.

Sexwale has been linked with moves to have Zuma removed as party president with his name featuring in a number of nomination lists of those calling for the ousting of the ANC leadership.

Sources close to the city said Sexwale’s visit, which also included a meeting of housing MECs, was seen as part of his “campaign” against the party leadership.

The eThekwini region, which is the biggest ANC region in KZN, is a key to the re-election of Zuma in Mangaung.

Local ANC politicians viewed the “hasty” visit of Sexwale in a negative light, the source said.

No senior city leader – neither mayor James Nxumalo, his deputy, Nomvuzo Tshabalala, city Speaker Logie Naidoo nor the head of city housing, Nigel Gumede – was present. This was despite Cornubia’s being defined as “a benchmark of integrated human settlement development” in the country.

It is to be built for R25 billion and will boast 50 000 houses.

When Sexwale arrived, a small group of ANC activists arrived in vehicles wearing T-shirts bearing Zuma’s profile.

“The biggest worry is not about Sexwale’s campaigning but that, if he comes here, with all the hype, people will expect an allocation of houses,” a municipal official said.

The city has not finalised the allocations policy or the list of people who will occupy the houses.

“Sexwale’s visit won’t change anything. People in KZN have already thrown their weight behind Zuma,” the official said.

When Sexwale was asked about the absence of the city leadership, especially the mayor, he said: “I don’t have an appointment with the mayor. I am here for an inspection and, when we launch the project, the mayor and President Zuma will be here.”

An eThekwini spokesman Thabo Mofokeng, rejected any suggestion that the absence of the political leadership was a snub.

Mofokeng said the mayor and city leadership had been attending the mayoral imbizo at the Chesterville sports field.

“The event in question clashed with the municipal programme which had been planned some time ago.”

On the absence of Gumede, Mofokeng said he was “deployed” out of town.

“The local councillor and municipal officials were present to represent the municipality. Suggestions that this was a “snub” of the minister are incorrect and unfounded,” said Mofokeng. - The Mercury