Party shuns election of new mayor

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

IFP councillors in the troubled Utrecht municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal walked out of a meeting called to elect a new mayor on Wednesday.

They argued that the process was illegal and intended challenging the matter in court. They also planned to stage a sit-in at the council offices yesterday.

Last week Mike Mabuyakhulu, MEC for local government, housing and traditional affairs, suspended IFP mayor Elphas Khoza and other officials, including municipal manager Velaphi Kubheka, for alleged fraud, corruption and maladministration. He appointed Thando Tubane as acting manager.

This week Mabuyakhulu ordered that the council convene an urgent meeting to elect a new mayor who would also serve as a speaker. Mabuyakhulu's action comes after the municipality ignored a forensic audit by his department. It also failed to probe and report back to Mabuyakhulu's office within the prescribed 21 days.

The IFP has accused Mabuyakhulu of abusing his powers for "political gain". The party says Mabuyakhulu was still bitter after his brother Dan Mabuyakhulu lost a mayoral position in the Amajuba district of Newcastle. The district is led by the IFP in alliance with the National Democratic Convention and the DA.

Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, IFP national chairman, said it was illegal for the Utrecht council to elect a new mayor.

"The IFP councillors agreed that there was no vacancy for mayor and cannot sit for an illegal election. Mayor Khoza has been suspended but not found guilty," Magwaza-Msibi said.

She said her party was consulting its legal advisers to challenge Mabuyakhulu's actions.

"The MEC appointed Tubane despite him facing 23 cases of corruption while he was manager at Kokstad," she said.

DA's Kokstad councillor Francois Rodgers said Tubane was never charged, nor was any action taken against him.