/ 3 August 2021

ANC Free State endorses three names for Mangaung mayor

Suspects Arrested In Free State Asbestos Project Appear At Court For Bail Application In South Africa
Three of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s loyalists have made it to the top of the list of those likely to replace ousted mayor Olly Mlamleli. (Photo by Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

The Free State Mangaung regional task team has submitted three names to be considered for the position of mayor in its Mangaung metro. Three of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s loyalists have made it to the top of the list of those likely to replace ousted mayor Olly Mlamleli, sources told the Mail & Guardian.

These include regional task team convenor and council speaker Mxolisi Siyonzana, ANC Women’s League chairperson Mapaseka Nkoane and regional task team member Millicent Motingwe. 

Insiders with intimate knowledge of the talks told the M&G that the current municipal speaker tops this list. Siyonzana was one of the ANC regional leaders who went up against Mlamleli, who is a strong ally of suspended ANC secretary general Ace Magashule

Siyonzana was poised to become Mlamleli’s successor when she was ousted during a vote of no confidence by opposition parties with the help of her ANC cadres in August 2020. 

A Free State leader said the names had already been taken to the national working committee (NWC) for review. The three candidates are expected to undergo rigorous interviews by the interim provincial committee (IPC) and deployees of the national executive committee (NEC), the insider said. 

Mlamleli has been implicated as the political head responsible for the poor service delivery and mismanagement in the city, which led to it being downgraded by ratings agencies and placed under administration in 2019. The metro has been dragged down by maladministration and failing service delivery, as well as political divisions. 

Mlamleli’s involvement with Magashule dates back to when she was in the secretary general’s office as an MEC in several cabinets.  

She is also one of 16 people accused, together with Magashule, who are due in court for pretrial hearings on 11 August on charges of corruption, money-laundering and fraud. 

The case is related to a R255-million asbestos scandal. Mlamleli was arrested in October, together with Edwin Sodi, chief executive of Blackhead Consulting, which was paid for the 2014 tender to replace asbestos roofs. The work was never carried out.

Mangaung  has been without a permanent mayor for a year, with deputy speaker  Lebohang Masoetsa acting in that position. 

The move by the regional task team loyal to Ramaphosa will further narrow Magashule’s influence in his home province. The region was the first in the province to endorse the NEC’s decision to suspend Magashule.

The instability in governance and mismanagement of municipal funds sparked mass protests, as communities decried the ANC-led municipality as dysfunctional. 

In May, Ramaphosa consolidated support in the province when the ANC’s NWC, populated by his allies, took a step to further alienate Magashule by appointing Mxolisi Dukwana to head the IPC that would take the Free State to the ANC’s national elective conference in December 2022. 

Some people within the party considered this one of several chess moves by Ramaphosa in recent months that cut off Magashule’s supply of allies and resulted in his temporary suspension. 

Dukwana, a former provincial ANC treasurer, was part of Magashule’s inner circle until their relationship soured and he was fired from the then-premier’s cabinet in 2012.