Masondo next to be axed?

After the abrupt departure of Ekurhuleni mayor Duma Nkosi, City of Johannesburg executive mayor Amos Masondo may be the next in the firing line. Neither Nkosi nor Masondo are open supporters of President Thabo Mbeki, but both owe their positions to him.

Moves are afoot to prevent Masondo from becoming ANC Johannesburg regional chairperson at the party’s regional conference next month — a first step in stripping him of power.

Nominations to date indicate that he could lose to incumbent Bhengeza Mthombeni. Of the 56 branch nominations received so far, he is favoured by nine. The Johannesburg region comprises 97 branches.

Although Masondo has held the Johannesburg mayoral position for seven years, he never served as regional chairperson.

ANC sources told the Mail & Guardian that his decision to enter the regional race was informed by his insecurity about his mayoral position. Since Polokwane rumours have been circulating that Masondo is to be removed as mayor.

Earlier this year he is understood to have confronted the ANC’s provincial leadership on his position. He was apparently reassured that his mayoral tenure, which ends in 2011, is secure. But there are tensions between Masondo and the leadership of the region, which is dominated by supporters of Jacob Zuma.

His opponents have accused him of undermining the region when taking important decisions.

In particular, they criticised him for failing to inform the regional leadership of his decision to challenge a Johannesburg High Court ruling on pre-paid water meters.

The court had found that the council’s plan to forcibly install meters in Phiri, Soweto, was unconstitutional.

His detractors also accuse him of failing to engage the regional structure on the two-months Metrobus strike, which resulted in the killing of three bus drivers last year.

”We believe the Metrobus strike and the meter issue would have been better handled if there was cooperation between the government and the ANC,” said one ANC leader.

”We feel his decision to appeal against the High Court judgement was contrary to the position of the organisation.”

Another ANC regional leader said Masondo had not taken sufficient interest in the regional leadership.

”We are all surprised that he is now standing as chair. He believes the regional leadership is responsible for his failure to make it to the ANC’s national executive committee,” the leader said. ”If he had supported Zuma, things could have been different for him today.

”Those around him are feeding him wrong information. They think if he is elected chairperson he stands a good chance of holding on to his position as mayor.” The source said there was ”a consistent pattern among those who support the third-term agenda [Mbeki supporters] of reasserting themselves”.

Masondo’s key campaigners are said to be Parks Tau, the Johannesburg mayoral committee member for finance, and influential Gauteng leader Mandla Nkomfe.

Masondo’s supporters say he has done a good job for the city.

Said one: ”Masondo has been performing very well compared with other mayors. The campaign against him is not about making government strong. His opponents want to take power at all costs.

”This thing is destroying the ANC. We are seeing another face of comrades who are hungry for power to accumulate resources for themselves and their families.”

The mayor’s supporter said there was no yardstick for determining why people are removed. ”It’s not about performance. They use minor problems and ignore all the good things he has done.”

The source defended Masondo on the Metrobus issue, saying he had fired the service’s regional director after the strike.

He pointed to Masondo’s nomination as a finalist for the 2008 World Mayor Award as evidence of his good work. Masondo was nominated for his efforts in developing Johannesburg’s economy, infrastructure development, the build-up to the 2010 Fifa World Cup and his focus on HIV/Aids. He said Masondo still stood a good chance of being elected regional chairperson, as nominations did not necessarily reflect how delegates would vote.

Masondo also chairs the South African Local Government Association. Last year he was elected vice-president of United Cities and Local Governments, an umbrella body for municipal associations throughout the world.

Meanwhile, the new Ekurhuleni mayor, Lentheng Ntombi Mekgwe, is tipped to replace Duma Nkosi as chairperson of the ANC’s Ekurhuleni region at its regional conference next month.

Nkosi, who was forced to resign as Ekurhuleni mayor last month — three years before his term expired — is expected to step down as ANC regional chairperson at the conference.

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