AN escalating power struggle among the leadership of the ANC in Gauteng has stalled the appointment of a municipal manager for the embattled Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality.

The party's last-ditch effort to turn the R16billion municipality around has hit a major snag since municipal manager designate Panyaza Lesufi turned the job offer down.

Various leaders in the provincial executive committee said Lesufi turned the position down because of loyalty to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, who is also his boss in government.

A senior leader on the committee told Sowetan: "The Panyaza issue is a smoke screen in the political dynamics of the province.

"Lesufi was never going to leave Motshekga for any group in the province."

At least three groups are fighting for power in the province - with current ANC provincial chairman Paul Mashatile leading one faction, while Motshekga and Premier Nomvula Mokonyane lead other factions plotting to topple Mashatile.

The most powerful group is the Motshekga group, with prominent members such as Local Government Minister Sicelo Shiceka and ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga.

Mokonyane, who is expected to jostle for the position of Gauteng ANC provincial chairperson during the province's next elective conference, is building a power base in the province and the Lesufi saga is said to constitute an assault on the Motshekga group.

The latest power struggle flies in the face of this week's suggestion by ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe that Eastern Cape, North West and Western Cape were the "only provinces" plagued by political divisions in the ANC.

Lesufi, the new communications chief at Angie Motshekga's Basic Education Department, was Mokonyane's ace to clean up various financial management decisions that have cost the municipality more than R1billion in the past financial year.

Lesufi, also a member of the ANC provincial executive committee, became prominent as spokesperson for the national prosecuting authority.

He told Sowetan he was approached for the position but had declined.

"Some comrades who recognised my skills during various organisational jobs approached me to consider the job.

"I told them I was humbled by their confidence in me but I could not take the job because I have other commitments in national government."

The financial mess and various service delivery backlogs in the municipality have led to former city manager Patrick Flusk being fired and its former mayor, Duma Nkosi, being redeployed by the ANC.

Ekurhuleni's mayor Ntombi Mekgwe was brought in last year to map out a political recovery plan but its financial management woes continued.

Last week, newspaper reports said the municipality had cost taxpayers R88million in purchasing a new fleet of cars for its Metro police department - while an internal report showed the previous fleet had been destroyed by reckless driving by its officers.

At the top of various botched projects in the municipality is the controversial Meyersdal land deal.

In this deal land worth more than R100million was sold for only R7million.