PIETERMARITZBURG - A day after the African National Congress' Moses Mabhida regional conference was called off owing to disagreements among party members, divisions were laid bare when a special Msunduzi council sitting to discuss a report on suspended city manager Sizwe Hadebe was abandoned as a large number of ANC councillors failed to attend the sitting on Friday.
This was the second time that an urgent council sitting was abandoned because of a lack of a quorum in the ANC-dominated 78-member council.
Friday's mass absence by ANC councillors was seen as a show of force by a grouping aligned to former ANC president Jacob Zuma, as they were said to be angry that the regional elective conference scheduled for this week was abandoned.
Councillors known to be supporters of current president Cyril Ramaphosa said it was unfortunate that party members were supporting the suspended city manager.
"This is how far some of our comrades are willing to go in order to protect Hadebe, the question is why?" said one pro-Ramaphosa councillor.
Another senior ANC councillor said it was clear that the mass absence by ruling party councillors had been engineered to ensure that the sitting does not take place.
Veteran Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor Bill Lambert said tougher sanction should be handed to councillors as they were stifling council progress.
"There is a provision on council rules for payment to be docked against councillors who are absent without providing a valid reason and this is a matter that your office should look into," said Lambert to council Speaker Jabu Ngubo.
Speaking to the African News Agency (ANA) following the abandoning of the sitting, the council Speaker Jabu Ngubo said all procedures of alerting councillors had been followed.
"I arrived at the office at 7am on Thursday and sent out the memo to councillors before 8am on the same day to allow councillors a 24-hour notice, so no one can claim to have not been informed of the sitting," said Ngubo.
She conceded that absenteeism among councillors, especially in the ruling party was becoming a problem.
The meeting is likely to be called again next week as council rules provide for the sitting to be called within seven days for an urgent council sitting.
African News Agency (ANA)