An emergency virtual council meeting of the Sol Plaatje municipality in Kimberley has been put off at last minute. The special sitting was set to deal with the matter of the extension of the contracts of municipal manager Thami Mabija and chief financial officer Zahid Cader.
Mabija and Cader’s contracts were extended by mayor Patrick Mabilo as an emergency measure to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
But Mabilo’s colleagues in the ANC caucus are not happy. They say the party was not consulted about the contract extensions and want them revoked. ANC insiders in the municipality say this is all bad blood stemming from the removal of former mayor Mangaliso Matika.
Matika was removed from office in 2018 after the City of Kimberley was shut down by grassroots protest, led by residents of the city’s largest township, Galeshewe. Services in the municipality ground to a sed, forcing the ANC’s national leadership to intervene.
Matika was removed as mayor, but retained his position as the ANC’s regional chairperson in Sol Plaatje. After the 2019 provincial elections, he was deployed to be the Northern Cape’s deputy speaker in the provincial legislature.
It is from this position that Matika is said to be exacting his revenge on those who people were part of the effort to remove him from the mayoral seat two years ago.
“There’s still a lot of bad blood between the former mayor and the new mayor. He feels he was betrayed. And now, he’s making things tough in the municipality. Even though we have bigger things to worry about, like the coronavirus,” said a senior figure in the Sol Plaatje Municipality.
“As mayor, Matika messed up. But he’s now been made happy by being made deputy speaker in the province. But since then he has been using ANC councillors to cause havoc, the source said.
“Mabilo is being accused of not consulting the party about the extension of the contracts. But what could he do? Lockdown had already been announced and he had the powers under the national regulations to extend.
A letter seen by the Mail & Guardian from the Northern Cape co-operative governance department, says that the extension of the contracts was above board and in line with emergency measures during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
“In view of the directions by the [national] minister, and your request, I accordingly extend … Mabija and Cader’s secondment for a further period of three months, to ensure that stability is maintained with minimal disruptions and the necessary measures are put in place to prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19 in the municipality,” MEC Bentley Vass wrote in the letter.
Tebogo Obusitse, the chairperson of the Sol Plaatje Community Forum and the leader of 2018’s Shutdown Kimberley campaign, said he’s not surprised by Matika’s attempts to control the municipality remotely.
He added that not much has improved since they led the community-based campaign to force the ANC to unseat Matika.
Obusitse said: “Since the protest in 2018, there is still bitterness from Matika. He seems to [think he has] a God-given right to run the municipality from wherever he is.
“But nothing has changed since he left. As regional chairperson, he still has a say as to who becomes MMCs, or there must be a caucus. You will see even the mayor doesn’t have control over the mayoral committees.”
But Matika denies he is trying to run the municipality remotely. Asked about whether he is disrupting the running of the Sol Plaatje municipality, he said that he backs the mayor and is too involved with politics in the provincial legislature.
“That is news to me. As the ANC we are supporting the mayor. I’ve been redeployed to a provincial government, which is a senior position [compared to] that of the mayor,” Matika said.