ANC wary of opportunists in run-up to municipal polls
THE ANC in KZN says it is not going to allow community protests calling for the removal of mayors to be used by political opportunists to position themselves for power in the run-up to next year’s local government elections.
Speaking exclusively to Independent Media yesterday just before the party’s two-day provincial executive committee meeting in Durban, provincial chairperson and premier Sihle Zikalala said they were aware that protests were often hijacked by opportunists.
As a result, Zikalala said they had developed a strategy to ensure that opportunism did not succeed.
He was, however, quick to say that the strategy did not override genuine community protests in favour of keeping their mayors in power.
The undertaking came days after the ruling party ordered Alfred Duma (Ladysmith) municipality mayor Vincent Madlala to take sick leave to allow the party to listen to violent protesters who had shut down the town for the past two weeks.
Critics said shifting mayors every time there was a protest opened an opportunity for members of the community who wanted to be councillors and mayors in next year’s local government elections to hijack legitimate protests.
“I think that is a serious concern that we are having, but we reached a decision not to suspend the mayor (Madlala) but to accept that he wanted leave because he was not well… We are developing that approach (of containing opportunism) and I think we are all cautioned to ensure that we deal with opportunists who try to position themselves and undermine sitting councillors or the current mayors. We will not act haphazardly but also not act against the community. So we have to balance the two, what the community is saying and what is the process and the process does not allow that you just withdraw the mayor,” Zikalala said.
Ladysmith is not the first KZN town to experience such protests and with the ANC removing mayors. It started in Mandeni in March last year where the ANC was forced to recall former mayor Siphesile Zulu, who was accused of corruption (he denies this and there is an ongoing probe).
Zulu pointed fingers at his regional enemies.
In January, there was a violent shutdown of Newcastle and the mayor there, Ntuthuko Mahlaba, said the protests were proxy funded to oust him because he was fighting corruption that was benefiting his opponents in the eMalahleni region.
To a lesser extent, there have been shutdowns in Dumbe and Port Shepstone, but the mayors were not affected.
Political analyst Thabani Khumalo said it was a given that opportunists would use the protests to position themselves for power.
“Opportunists are definitely going to use the community protests in the run-up to the elections year to pave the way for themselves to power… The protests are going to spiral as the elections get closer,” Khumalo said.
Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said for the ANC to avoid having mayors removed from power the party always had to be transparent in removing mayors. “The removal of a mayor creates a position for someone else…,” he said.
THE official opposition wants to clip the powers of Police Minister Bheki Cele on the appointment of the executive director for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
The DA wants a much more participatory process that would see the public have more say in the appointment of the watchdog body’s head.
The move comes against the backdrop of President Cyril Ramaphosa still having to assent to an amendment bill that was approved by the National Council of Provinces late last year in compliance with a 2016 Constitutional Court ruling.
This as acting Ipid acting executive director Victor Senna was replaced by Patrick Setshedi earlier this month, head of investigations Matthews Sesoko was suspended and investigator Mandlakayise Mahlangu was killed last week.
Yesterday, DA MP Andrew Whitfield
said his party would table a private members’ bill to amend the Ipid Act in order to limit the powers of Cele to appoint the executive director of the police watchdog.
“Ipid is in a state of complete chaos due to political interference and a lack of leadership,” Whitfield said.
He said the amendment made last year to the Ipid Act did not go far enough. Whitfield added that the current legislation provided for the minister to “nominate a suitably qualified person”, who Parliament’s police committee should either confirm or reject.
“The DA is of the view that this process is problematic because it gives too much power to the minister and reduces the role of the committee to a mere tick-box exercise, while opening the directorate up to undue political influence.”
Whitfield said his party’s proposed amendment provided for an independent panel to shortlist candidates.
“The committee would then interview the candidates and recommend a preferred candidate to the minister. The process would also allow for public comments on the shortlisted candidates,” he said.
“We also trust that these amendments would speed up the process of appointing a permanent Ipid head. The institution has had an acting head for the past year, and despite continued assurances by Minister Bheki Cele, he continues to drag his feet.”
Whitfield said their proposed amendments would also allow for greater parliamentary oversight in the appointment of an Ipid head, reduce the chance of a political appointment and ensure public participation in the appointment process.
“These amendments are critical to ensure that stability is restored at Ipid.”
Last November, the National Council of Province’s select committee on security and justice had noted that it had restricted itself to remedy court-identified unconstitutional provisions in the Ipid Act.
This was despite the committee receiving seven written submissions that recommended broader amendments to the bill, now awaiting assent from Ramaphosa.
In September 2016, the Constitutional Court confirmed the ruling of the Gauteng Division of the High Court on the independence of the police watchdog body.
Then Ipid executive director Robert McBride had challenged his suspension and disciplinary action instituted by the then police minister, Nathi Nhleko, on the grounds of constitutional invalidity.
The court had found certain sections of the Ipid Act to be unconstitutional as they gave the minister the power to suspend, or take any disciplinary steps in order to suspend or remove from office, the executive director of Ipid.
Parliament was then instructed to “cure the defects in the legislation” within 24 months, but only did so in November last year.