Free State’s Mangaung Metro Mayor Mxolisi Siyonzana came out unscathed from a council meeting convened to vote him out on Thursday.
The motion of no confidence was sponsored by the Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Afrikan Alliance of Social Democrats (ASSD).
The African National Congress (ANC) squabbling in and outside council drove the opposition parties to take a shot at removing Siyonzana, hoping for a secret ballot and some ANC support.
The parties banked on the more than 10 ANC councillors at loggerheads with its regional leadership for supporting the suspension of corporate services head, David Nkaiseng.
However, voting by a show of hands took place instead of a secret ballot.
Sources in council who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said two provincial party representatives, interim coordinator Paseka Nompondo and spokesperson Oupa Khoabane were in the in the public gallery to ensure that councillors toed the party line.
‘We’re trying to do the right thing’
Siyonzana is a staunch ally of corruption-accused and suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, who is also a former Free State premier.
Siyonzana received 54 votes against 44 on Thursday night. Smaller parties such as Patriotic Alliance (PA) and African Transformation Movement supported the ANC vote.
Reacting to the failed motion, Siyonzana said the issues raised by the parties against him were “historical” and that he needed to be given time as he has been in the job for three months.
“I’ve just been elected, I am new in the job, their issues were not new. One should be given a year or two to do work, judge me and then take action,” Siyonzana told The Citizen on Friday.
He remarked that his wish was that all parties could work together to improve delivery of services to residents
Regarding the long-standing party infighting affecting municipal services, Siyonzana said the members would ultimately resolve the problems facing the imploding caucus.
“I believe that we will find each other somehow, the people of Mangaung expect to receive quality services and we are hard at work. We have started patching potholes and cleaning the city…we are trying to do the right thing.”
DA caucus chairperson David Masoeu there are ANC councillors who wanted Siyonzana gone.
“We tabled a number of issues that he hadn’t attend to, the worst one being the issue of ghost workers in political offices who get paid but do not report for work.
“There are about 10 to 15 ANC councillors we believed were going to vote with us, but they were watched with a hawk’s eye by provincial ANC representatives yesterday. They made sure that Speaker [ANC’s Stefani Lockman-Naidoo] drops the secret ballot option for open voting,” said Masoeu.
The ANC, he said, feared losing by-elections and won’t fire the beleaguered councillors.
“They know they could lose by-elections if they get rid of them, or they could come back as independent candidates, same as what happened at Maluti-A-Phofung when the fired 16 councillors came together to unseat the ANC in last year’s municipal elections.”
‘HR managers to face suspensions’
Meanwhile, council adopted the Matlho Attorneys investigative report into the appointment of ghost employees that cost the metro millions a month.
The report recommended that action be taken against Nkaiseng who allegedly spearheaded the appointments and payment of the ghost workers, who include Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s brother, former ambassador Jabu Mbalula.
The metro was also directed to lay charges against Nkaiseng for flouting municipal laws and illegally appointing staffers.
Other officials against whom charges were also recommended are human resources development manager Nzimeni Maswabi and Thabang Joseph Mpeli, employment manager in the human resources department.
The duo will also face suspensions soon.
The troubled metro’s residents endured water shortages, uncollected refuse and a general lack of services over the past couple of years.
Mangaung is under national administration after failure by the provincial government to implement a financial recovery plan.
This prompted fed up residents to embark on protests last year, demanding that the dissolution of the council and new managers be appointed.
Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa took a presidential imbizo to the Free State, listening to residents’ pleas and complaints against the provincial government and municipalities.
The president promised jobs, improved service delivery and enhanced crime fighting by the police.
Tebogo Motlashuping, from the national Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), was appointed to turn the metro around as acting city manager after confirmation by council.
No decision has yet been taken to dissolve the council.