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Matatiele may sink metro’s budget

AIC awaits ANC word on reincorporation demands ahead of today’s council vote

The African Independent Congress is using the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality’s much-delayed budget as a negotiating tool in a last-ditch effort to get its way in having Matatiele fall back under the KwaZulu-Natal administration.
Minutes after the Bay’s sole AIC councillor, Thsonono Buyeye, said he would support the budget, he stepped out of the chamber before the vote and did not return.
Buyeye’s vote would have given the coalition government led by the DA the one extra seat it needed to finally pass the 2018-19 budget in the face of sustained opposition from the ANC, EFF and other parties.
If the budget is not passed by June 30, the provincial administration would need to step in, paving the way for the bitterly divided council to possibly be placed under administration.
It emerged later yesterday that it was a phone call from controversial ANC councillor Andile Lungisa to AIC president Mandla Galo that stopped Buyeye from participating in the vote.
Galo said Lungisa phoned him at about 11am – while the council meeting was in session – saying that the ANC in the Eastern Cape as well as secretary-general Ace Magashule were seriously reconsidering the party’s stance on the Matatiele issue.
Getting Matatiele reincorporated into the KwaZulu-Natal administration was the purpose of the AIC’s formation in 2006.
When asked to comment on Lungisa’s intervention yesterday, ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayitobi said Lungisa was probably speaking for “Amambanjwa [the councillor’s clan name], not the ANC”.
Of the phone call, Galo said: “I was contacted by ANC councillor Andile Lungisa, who indicated that the leadership in the province was considering rescinding its decision taken in the [Bhisho] legislature not to support the people of Matatiele moving to their province of choice.”
Galo said he then wrote to Magashule requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the ANC’s stance on Matatiele.
Galo said if the AIC did not receive a letter by 8am today stating that the ANC supported the proposal for Matatiele to fall back within the KwaZulu-Natal boundary, it would continue punishing the ANC.
Galo said the AIC would accordingly give its vote in Nelson Mandela Bay to the DA and its coalition partners at today’s council meeting, where a fourth attempt would be made to pass the budget.
ANC provincial chairman Oscar Mabuyane slammed Lungisa, saying he had no right or mandate to speak on behalf of the party, or even a caucus of the ANC in the metro.
Mabuyane said there were discussions around reconsidering the ANC’s stance on the Matatiele issue, but this was a process involving “the people of Matatiele through a referendum or public participation”.
“The [ANC provincial executive committee] is handling this matter with the sensitivity it deserves,” Mabuyane said.
Lungisa declined to comment yesterday, saying it was an internal ANC matter.
Meanwhile, the DA and its coalition partners are said to be in talks with the AIC about the party joining the coalition, even apparently offering the party a mayoral committee position.
Buyeye would not be drawn into whether or not the DA had offered him any mayoral committee position.
“What I can say is that there’s been correspondence between the two parties but I’ll wait to hear instructions from the party leaders,” he said.
Patriotic Alliance councillor Marlon Daniels said: “I am aware that there have been engagements with [Buyeye] and his national leadership around co-governance agreements. However, as far as I know no such agreements have been signed.”ACDP councillor Lance Grootboom said attempts were under way to rope in the AIC.
“These are talks on a national level between our parties. There are those attempts,” he said.
Grootboom said he was not aware of the current status of the negotiations.
Mayor Athol Trollip said he would not expose any internal party discussions.
“Coalitions are forged and/or strengthened with other political parties that add value or stability to such coalitions.
“We haven’t seen either of this from any of the opposition parties to date,” Trollip said.
Earlier yesterday, as parties explained their position on the 2018-19 budget in the council chamber, Buyeye made it clear that he had been “instructed” by his national bosses to support the budget.
“The issue of political instability is one that may trickle into the administration,” Buyeye said.
“We are not going to allow for a situation where this municipality is placed under administration.
“The AIC has instructed me to go and defend the administration, to make sure the people don’t suffer, and even though we have serious issues with the budget as it does not address some of the important issues, we will support this budget.”
After walking out, he left the DA and its coalition partners without the 61 votes required to approve the budget as none of the other opposition parties were in support of it.
The council is evenly split as both the coalition and the opposition parties have a combined 60 seats each.
Yesterday, the ANC, EFF, UDM and United Front said they would not support the budget.
ANC caucus leader Bicks Ndoni said the budget failed to address inequalities in the city.
Ndoni claimed that money had been set aside for under-utilised facilities in some areas instead of popular facilities in the townships.
The main reason for the ANC’s rejection of the budget was the wardbased budget. “As the ANC we cannot put our ward councillors in a situation where they are against the people.”
EFF councillor Zilindile Vena said the DA had failed to consider tangible issues in Ward 43.
“We are prepared to engage you on that. We will fight and we are not going to vote for you,” Vena said.
UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani questioned how the ward-based budget had been drawn up for wards where public participation did not happen.
“We are being misled here – where did the officials get these priorities? We will only support a proper and a people’s budget,” Bobani said.
UF councillor Mkhuseli Mtsila said his demands had not been met.

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