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Battle not over

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Pula Thabane voted in as mayor during secret ballot

CELEBRATIONS: Opposition parties yesterday celebrated after the peoples candidate, Pule Thabane, was elected as the new executive mayor of Kimberley. Patrick Mabilo, the preferred candidate of the provincial ANC lost by three votes. Picture: Danie van der Lith

WHILE the city finally has a new executive mayor, the battle for the ownership of the mayoral chain is far from over.

ANC councillor Pula Thabane was yesterday voted in as Sol Plaatje Municipality executive mayor with 33 votes in a secret ballot, while fellow ANC councillor Patrick Mabilo received 30 votes during a special council meeting.

The swearing in ceremony has not taken place yet.

The report on the Section 106 investigation into irregularities at Sol Plaatje was released during a closed session and the public and media were escorted out of the gallery by security.

Meanwhile, ANC provincial chairperson Zamani Saul and ANC regional chairperson Mangaliso Matika addressed a group of party members outside.

Some members believed that Thabane should be suspended.

“The leadership is not happy with the outcome. It did not go according to plan and they said that they would reverse the appointment of Thabane as the mayor,” ANC members said after the meeting with Saul and Matika.

Expulsion letters were served on the ANC councillors who had previously voted against former Sol Plaatje mayor, Matika, during the special council meeting that continued until late yesterday evening.

The councillors were informed that they were found guilty of misconduct.

ANC regional secretary Webster Dichaba stated that they would urgently reconvene to elect a new executive mayor that had “the full backing of the ANC caucus”.

He pointed out that ANC councillors had brazenly defied a mandate to vote in Mabilo as the preferred candidate.

“This is a classic case of a palace coup and defiance of the highest order. The councillors grouped themselves in a ‘de facto’ coalition with the opposition to elect one of their own, in full view of some of the ANC Provincial Executive Committee members and National Executive Committee deployees to the Northern Cape.”

Dichaba warned that they would deal with the matter “in terms of the prescripts of the ANC constitution expeditiously”.

Thabane came under attack from the ANC chief whip, Winters Keetile, who accused him of “committing suicide” and dividing the ANC by agreeing to stand for mayor.

“One of our own contested against Mabilo, whom we voted for. Thabane was put into this position by the ANC. He has been dishonest to the ANC and has lost his conscience. Thabane is still an ANC member and I have nothing personal against him. We found the ANC and we will leave the ANC. We have joined the ANC, it is not the ANC who has joined us.”

Thabane thanked everyone who had supported him and encouraged councillors to report back to their communities and start delivering services.

“Some of you think that I came here yesterday. All I can say is that we must go and tell the communities that we are ready to do what they have been waiting for for a long time,” said Thabane.

Cope councillor Rosie Ludick believed that Thabane’s tenure as mayor would be short-lived.

“It won’t be long before we have to vote for a new mayor. We hope that he has the capacity to bring services to the people of Kimberley and Sol Plaatje Municipality as there are huge backlogs.”

DA councillor Wynand Boshoff spoilt his ballot as he did not want to “choose a side in the ANC feud”, which he was convinced would further destabilise the city.

“The ANC’s rebellion candidate carried the day. We do not know whether Mabilo was the victim of malevolence, or guilty of misdemeanour. He was deployed from being a director at this institution to government after a settlement had been reached regarding accusations against him. If an accusation is raised against Thabane in the short future, the same uncertainty will transpire.”

Boshoff added that it was inevitable that the minority ANC faction would be suspended and disciplined, whereby more uncertainty would prevail.

He indicated that the suspended chief financial officer at Sol Plaatje Municipality was implicated in the Section 106 investigation into financial misconduct, which was released by the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Bentley Vass, yesterday.

“The report makes mention of the municipal payment system, irregular payments and contracts. The committee recommends that disciplinary steps as well as criminal charges should be laid against the suspended CFO.”

Boshoff said that it was recommended that the municipal manager, as the accounting officer, should be responsible for taking the necessary steps against the suspended CFO.

“The investigation has highlighted attempts to activate the two senior officials’ e-mail accounts while they were still suspended.”

DA provincial leader Andrew Louw advised Thabane that, as the “people’s choice”, he could not waste any time in effectively and transparently dealing with electricity tariffs, budgetary shortfalls and the ongoing sewage crisis in Kimberley.

Meanwhile, a council resolution, which was taken on October 10 2007 to dismiss Mabilo as the executive director of Community and Social Development with immediate effect on charges of misconduct, was circulated on social media platforms before the new mayor was elected yesterday.

Mabilo was placed on precautionary suspension on January 31 2007, will full pay, pending an investigation into charges of misconduct relating to poor management of the pleasure resorts, conflict with managers under his supervision, the employment of relations in temporary positions as well as not following supply chain management processes.

Mabilo was charged with 13 counts of corruption and was found guilty on 11 charges. He was found not guilty on two charges, due to insufficient evidence.

During the council meeting on October 10 2007, 21 councillors voted in favour of Mabilo’s dismissal, while councillors from the DA, Azapo and the ID refrained from voting.

Advocate Ronnie Bauser stated at the time that the DA caucus decided to abstain from voting. He indicated that they had only received a verbal report of the disciplinary hearing and had not been able to study the document in order to make an informed decision.

The councillors who abstained from voting were ordered to leave the chambers.