Zille told to reform mayoral committee

Western Cape local government minister Richard Dyantyi has ordered Cape Town mayor Helen Zille to reconstitute her mayoral committee to include her African Christian Democratic Party deputy mayor as one of the 10 committee members, not as an additional post.

“This [current situation] is contrary to both my department’s interpretation of the legislation and practice at all other municipalities in the province. You are requested to correct this position,” Dyantyi said in a letter faxed to Zille on Tuesday.

A shake-up is now likely. A new portfolio must be created or an existing one split for deputy mayor Andrew Arnolds. One seat has remained vacant for the Independent Democrats.

Zille chairs the mayoral committee, where the Democratic Alliance holds the key portfolios of finance, trading services and infrastructure, housing, planning and corporate services. The four smaller parties hold the lesser portfolios.

The provincial directive came as Dyantyi found “no basis” for intervening in the affairs of the Cape Town council by appointing an administrator, as requested by African National Congress councillors last month.

But he raised concerns about the two-month old dispute over Wallace Mgoqi’s contract as city manager.

Attaining “administrative stability” was paramount, Dyantyi wrote, urging Zille to give the city management team certainty about their positions.

Zille downplayed Dyantyi’s instruction to recompose her mayoral committee, describing it as “a purely academic argument because one position is vacant”. Zille told the Mail & Guardian: ” We are going to discuss this with him [Dyantyi]. It’s a different legal interpretation. There’s no fight.”

Dyantyi refused to be drawn on what would happen if Zille refused to act: “I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said.

Meanwhile, another showdown between the ANC-led provincial government and the DA-dominated city is looming — over the allocation of housing in the N2 Gateway Project, an initiative by all three spheres of government and the lead project in the planned eradication of slums by 2014.

Tensions are already reverberating at national level.”The additional politics we can do without,” Minister of Housing Lindiwe Sisulu said.

Zille has blamed the province for handing her the “poisoned chalice” of housing by failing to allocate homes. She made the comment after a visit to Joe Slovo squatter camp, where a fire left 400 shack-dwellers homeless over the weekend. Some later invaded empty N2 Gateway homes, damaging doors and windows. Police removed them and have since kept watch over the 705 completed units.

It has emerged that Zille was briefed weeks ago on the joint task team of provincial and city officials in charge of allocations. After she raised concerns about “war” if people failed to receive housing, she was told that part of her committee’s job was to keep local residents informed of progress and other housing options.

Dyantyi on Wednesday admitted that the allocation of the houses was a challenge, but insisted it was a joint responsibility of his officials and the city. “We are being tested here. I want to demonstrate and promote intergovernmental relations, even if we are in different parties.”

Zille faces a dilemma: while she has pledged cooperation with other tiers of government, it is vital for her to highlight the ANC’s delivery failures. Already, several forensic audits have been instituted into the ANC council tenders, including the multimillion-rand tenders for Jewellery City and city centre parking.

According to a DA insider, the party wants to use its performance in Cape Town to bolster its support in the 2009 elections. Initially the focus will be on winning a June 7 by-election in Tafelsig, a poor coloured area in Mitchells Plain vacated by an Independent Democrats councillor. Should the DA win, its one-seat majority in council would double.

Already the party has introduced key changes to the draft budget prepared by the previous ANC administration. Money has been sourced from underspending in the previous budget to finance projects in key DA coloured constituencies and also to bolster metro police and fire services.

For the first time in almost two months, ANC members this week attended council committee meetings — a clear indication that the party’s strategy has moved away from confrontational personal attacks on Zille and other attempts to destabilise her mayorship.

The ANC’s provincial general council meeting at the weekend, is expected to discuss the party’s election performance and council role.

The indications are that rumblings of discontent with the current leadership of chairperson James Ngculu and secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha will be headed off.

Instead, party spin doctors will show that ANC support has stabilised, and increased in some areas. The DA lost support compared to its 2000 election performance, the ANC insists. An ANC official maintains the party’s analysis clearly showed that in 87 of Cape Town’s 105 wards the DA lost support.

Mgoqi passed up job offers

Axed Cape Town city manager Wallace Mgoqi says he turned down the post of executive director of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings in February, certain that his contract as Cape Town city manager would be extended until at least early 2007.

“I have already been reassured of the extension of my contract for at least another year until the beginning of 2007,” Mgoqi says in an affidavit filed in the Cape High Court, in his challenge to the revocation of the contract.

Mgoqi said leading Western Cape empowerment company Sekunjalo made the offer on January 20 this year. He rejected it on February 2.

Mgoqi’s court challenge in the drawn-out dispute with Democratic Alliance mayor Helen Zille will be heard next Tuesday. He has continued to report for duty, although Achmat Ebrahim has been acting city manager since a special council meeting revoked Mgoqi’s contract and the post was advertised.

He maintains that no formal offer of settlement, or of paid leave pending the conclusion of the dispute, was made. “I would seriously have considered it after taking legal advice,” he says.

He adds that Zille’s public claim that he “simply wanted to hold out for a substantial golden handshake was most insulting”.

“My dignity and that of my family has been violated in a severe manner … My salary and other benefits have also been summarily terminated, which has resulted in me being unable to meet my financial commitments to creditors and other third parties.” — Marianne Merten

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