Ten former ANC councillors who contested as independent candidates in the Free State’s Maluti-a-Phofung municipality snatched wards from the party in a gruelling by-election, held on Wednesday.
The councillors were among those who were expelled by the ANC after voting with opposition parties to unseat former mayor Vusi Tshabalala.
Tshabalala is a key ally of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, who is mired in allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Control of the embattled municipality is at the heart of a bitter factional fight in the ANC, between Magashule allies and party members opposing him.
Tshabalala was also at the helm of the municipality when a Mail & Guardian investigation revealed that it had employed hundreds of people on the eve of the ANC’s 2017 Nasrec conference in exchange for their support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She lost out to current president Cyril Ramaphosa, and now serves as minister in the Presidency.
An attempt earlier this month by Luthuli House officials, headed by Dlamini-Zuma, to broker a peace deal with the expelled councillors ahead of the by-election, failed, with the independent councillors and the party’s national leadership “unable to find each other”.
It is understood that there were some among the top brass of the ANC who felt that an olive branch should be extended to the councillors — who voted against the ANC mayor due to allegations of corruption against him. The group was expelled by the provincial ANC leadership.
Paratlane Motloung, the spokesperson for the independent candidates, confirmed on Thursday that there was an attempt to find a political solution, but in the end parties “agreed to disagree”. Going forward, the independent councillors feel they are “done with the ANC”.
“We have no intention to have any further meetings with the ANC. Our chapter with the ANC is closed,” he said. The municipality remains under partial administration since last year.
Motloung said the independent candidates had hoped to be able to take control of the municipality, but the numbers were not on their side. He said, however, that the group dubbed “Map 16” would continue to push for better delivery to residents in the area, as they had promised in the run-up to the by-election.
He hoped for an outright win going forward — the country heads to local government elections in 2021.