MAYORAL ELECTIONS FOR NEWLY MERGED LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
*Caption: Newly elected leadership of Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality. (L-R) Speaker Sifiso Alfred Mdakane, Mayor Jabulile Mbhele, and Deputy Mayor Bhekithemba Dlamini. Picture taken by – Manzolwandle Hadebe
Written by: Siphokazi Mtshali
The newly merged Umtshezi and Imbabazane local municipality councillors joined together for the first time since local government elections.
Their first meeting was held on Wednesday, August 17, at Estcourt Town Hall. These two municipalities have merged into one big municipality, now known as Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality.
The council meeting was attended by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu and representatives from provincial government, including delegates from Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and South African Local Government Association (Salga).
Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality has 23 wards and 46 representative councillors. This was stated by the Acting Municipal Manager Sibusiso Radebe, who assured people that the councillors indeed made their solemn declaration in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate Court.
During the meeting the mayor, deputy mayor and speaker were elected. Expectations were tangible in the hall packed with community members. Elections started off with the speaker position, which was secured by Sifiso Alfred Mdakane from the African National Congress (ANC), defeating Simon Mchunu from Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) by four votes.
It was followed by the elections of nine members for the Executive Committee. Jabulile Mbhele from the ANC and Mthembeni Majola from the IFP were two candidates elected for the mayoral position. After a secret vote, Jabulile Mbhele was announced as the Mayor of Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality. Attendees at the hall stood up and applauded as the new mayor took her place on stage. Full of excitement, people started singing and dancing.
Elections proceeded with the Deputy Mayoral position which also had two candidates, namely Mbuzeleni Cyril Mkhize from the IFP and Bhekithemba Dlamini from Aljama (a new party that formed a temporary alliance with the National Freedom Party). The deputy mayor position was the taken by Bhekithemba Dlamini. They all took their positions in front and were presented before the community.
The merging of municipalities was confusing and unclear to others. The previous mayors from Umtshezi Municipality, Bongani Dlamini and Phindile Strydom from Imbabazane Local Municipality addressed the community and stated that the reasons for the merging process were political and administrative. Strydom said that the Imbabazane Municipality did not have rates and could not sell electricity since their area is under Eskom.
Imbabazane is a rural municipality that has scarce economic activities taking place and unemployment is very high. It depended on Umtshezi Municipality’s resources. Dlamini and Strydom both believed that the merger will cut down expenses.
“Instead of having two municipal managers, four directors of each department, all included earning above 5 million in rands per annum, the merger cut the expenses by half because there would be less management appointed,” said Dlamini.
Gabisile Nene from Wembezi said that the merger is going to cause negligence. “We have many wards as it is in Wembezi,” she said. “If we are combined with Imbabazane, our personal matters will take long to be solved.”
Residents can now only hope for the best under the merged leadership.