ANC’s Sekhukhune regional chair to be elected mayor after surviving factional spat

Limpopo ANC heavyweight and Sekhukhune regional chair Julia Mathebe is expected to be elected as mayor of the district when council convenes for a special sitting on Wednesday. 

Insiders in the region say that Mathebe was exonerated by the party’s national dispute resolution committee after she was cast aside when allegations emerged that she was not qualified for the job. 

Sources told the Mail & Guardian that the committee was of the view that Mathebe was unfairly targeted, with “unsubstantiated” allegations levelled against her. 

Mathebe — a staunch ally of provincial heavyweight Danny Msiza — was reportedly the victim of ANC factional infighting in Limpopo.

Mathebe, who was recently elected as chairperson of the region, was also part of the team that fired the first salvo by publicly endorsing Cyril Ramaphosa as its preferred party president candidate for this year’s elective conference, a move that was echoed by provincial chairperson Stan Mathabatha during the ANC’s 8 January birthday celebrations. 

One party leader said Mathebe would have to hit the ground running to deliver services for communities.

“This is a predominantly rural region and a mining-based region so water is a key resource,” they said.

“Equally, she is [imbued] with opportunities particular to the resources of mining. It’s a hub for the mining industry so part of her challenge is to ensure that those mines continue to [thrive] and, simultaneously, [that] our people are equally affirmed with powers as a result of the mining activities. Really, the economic trajectory of the district is anchored on the mining industry.” 

In November, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) resolved that some outgoing mayors in Limpopo stay on in their positions until disputes relating to candidates’ qualifications and credentials were resolved. 

The province had the highest number of reported disputes in the country, which must be resolved before the mayors they affect are sworn in. 

The decision was taken after ANC members turned to the Polokwane high court in November, requesting that it interdict the party against announcing a mayoral candidate. 

ANC members represented by former treasurer general Mathews Phosa’s legal firm, questioned the validity of mayoral candidates in the Sekhukhune and Vhembe regions

A lawyers’ letter, addressed to Sekhukhune and Vhembe regional secretaries, argued that candidates Stanley Ramaila and Nenguda Dowelani were not part of the list submitted to the NEC for interviews. 

“Three candidates, namely Julia Mathebe, Maleke Mokganyetsi and David Chego, were interviewed by the NEC, which proceeded to recommend that Julia Mathebe was appointed as mayor for the Sekhukhune district municipality…” the letter read.

“We confirm that the appointment of Stanley Ramaila is not in accordance with resolution number 57 of the 52nd national conference of 2007 and, furthermore, not in accordance with the recommendations by the NEC.”

The letter proceeded to say that Mihloti Muhlophe, Mbedzi Thinawanga and Fridah Nkondo were interviewed by the NEC and that Muhlophe was recommended as the top pick for the position of Vhembe mayor.

Whereas Mathebe has been cleared by the national leadership, the committee recommended that the process be rerun in Vhembe and in the Makhado local municipality. 

In a statement last week, the ANC Youth League took aim at the decision by the committee, saying mayoral candidates Muhlophe for Vhembe and Gumani Mukwevho for Makhado were top-performing mayoral candidates and represented women and young people of the region. 

“The process that has been used to reject and question their capacity to lead gives very little hope to young people and women in our region that the ANC trusts the young and women to advance it’s renewal agenda in local government,” said the league’s convenor,  Tumelo Siliga.

“We had expected that the revolutionary conscience of the NEC officials would have guided them to reject the disputes written and mobilised by patriarchal forces that are rejecting change and emancipation of youth and women in positions of responsibility.”

The young lions added that a rerun of the selection process was not necessary after investigations into unfounded allegations cleared both mayoral candidates.

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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