The ANC in Mpumalanga has suspended maverick mayor Johan Mkhatshwa, after he caused drama by defying the wishes of the party to hand over the reins to another candidate.
Mkhatshwa rattled the ANC when he snubbed the outcomes of the interviewing process of the national executive committee (NEC) and accepted his nomination from a cabal of renegade councillors for a second term as mayor of the rural Nkomazi Local Municipality in Malelane.
The provincial executive committee (PEC) was expected to expel Mkhatshwa and his supporters in the council right away, during its sitting on Monday, but he received what others may call a slap on the wrist.
Acting Mpumalanga ANC secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali said the PEC had decided to suspend him.
She said: He was suspended and he was ordered to resign as mayor and regulate his participation in council as ordinary, as he attends his disciplinary hearing.
This means that Mkhatshwa remains a backbencher in the municipality while he answers for his waywardness.
Ntshalintshali said Mkhatshwa was not in attendance at the PEC meeting.
Mkhashwa could not be reached for comment on the latest developments and on whether he would heed the NEC’s call or still defy it.
The NEC wanted Phindile Magagula to take over as mayor after she aced the interviews, and also wanted Siphiwe Mashele as speaker. However, a source who had taken part in the interviewing process said that, even though Mkhatshwa had come second, both he and Magagula had impressed and their performance was described as “excellent”.
When the new council sat on November 23, Mkhatshwa and Mashele accepted their nomination and, with the support of the opposition, they were able to collect more votes.
The PEC asked Mkhatshwa to step down and he initially agreed, before telling acting provincial chairperson Mandla Ndlovu that his supporters had told him not to. Last Friday, Mkhatshwa ramped up his defiance when he appointed his mayoral committee. Among the mayoral committee members he appointed were EFF councillor and Ehlanzeni regional secretary, Bandi Shongwe.
Mkhatshwa’s action has set the tone for a bruising battle that lies ahead for the ANC in Mpumalanga when it convenes an elective provincial conference at the end of January.
Mkhatshwa is an ally of suspended Ehlanzeni regional task team convenor Ngrayi Ngwenya. They belong to the Ngci faction, which has the backing of Deputy President David Mabuza. Ngci has somewhat lost its grip in the province. Ngwenya, who was considered untouchable, is serving a five-year suspension on misconduct charges, relating to his support of former president Jacob Zuma when he was about to be incarcerated for contempt of court. Ngwenya and Mkhatshwa are political allies.
Ngci is going head to head with the Focus faction led by acting chairperson Ndlovu in the elective conference. At present, Focus appears to be the favourite to win. This faction has controlled the deployment of mayors and councillors in municipalities since the local government elections – a sign that they have wrestled power from Ngci.
Ntshalintshali said heads would roll in other municipalities, such as Mkhondo (Piet Retief) and Thaba Chweu (Lydenburg) where some councillors also defied the NEC.
In Mkhondo, the renegades canvassed for independent candidate Mthokozisi Simelane to be mayor. The Speaker’s position went to African Transformation Movement’s Mduduzi Dlamini, and Siphesihle Mkhwanazi of the EFF was elected council whip.
Mutineers in Thaba Chweu nominated Paul Mokgosinyana against the NEC’s preferred mayor, Fridah Nkadimeng. Nkadimeng only won the vote by a whisker when she surpassed Mokgosinyana with one vote.