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Philippi ward councillor’s office set alight

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Tensions and allegations over ANC’s choice of councillors as well as housing lists

Photo of burnt office
The inside of ward councillor Mzuzile Mpondwana’s office. Photo: Masixole Feni
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The office of Philippi East’s ward 35 councillor Mzuzile Mpondwana was doused with petrol and set alight last night, allegedly by armed men who disagree with the ANC’s choice of four candidates for the upcoming municipal elections.

Last year Mpondwana’s house was also set alight during protests in Marikana in Philippi East.

“People have ambitions in local government elections,” said Mpondwana who is one of the four candidates. “They now want to enforce their people.”

Mpondwana has been accused of taking bribes to move people up the housing list and it is alleged by a community member as well as Nelson Banise, who says that he is a member of the DA working committee in the ward, that the recent burning of Mpondwana’s office is connected to unhappiness over him possibly becoming ward councillor again.

Mpondwana denies that he moved people up the housing list, saying that those who made these claims “are telling lies”.

“Up until this point in time there is no investigation that has found me guilty of this,” he said.

Photo of Mzuzile Mpondwana
Mzuzile Mpondwana earlier today. Photo: Masixole Feni

When GroundUp asked Mpondwana about the previous councillor, Thobile Gqola, who was expelled from council after it was alleged he sold RDP houses in the area, Mpondwana said that the selling of RDP houses “happened a long time ago and is still happening but I don’t want to get involved in those [kinds] of things [with] people that are selling houses”.

Vusumzi Mahobe, who was involved in a meeting in Mpondwana’s office last night when the men arrived to burn the building, said that the men came in and ordered the attendees of the meeting to leave.

He claims that as the attendees were trying to escape in his car. The armed men pelted the car with rocks and fired their guns.

Mpondwana, who was going to the police station to open a case after he had briefed the media, said that he had previously been targeted when windows of his office were smashed and that just last week a group of about ten people had marched to his house.

“It’s the very same group of people who have their own preferred candidate. They were beaten by the processes of the ANC… They don’t want those processes to continue because this person of theirs is not part of the four [chosen ANC candidates].”

“These people [who want a different candidate] have their own agenda. They try to influence the community,” said Mpondwana but added that “their meetings are attended by [only a] few people”.

When GroundUp asked whether the residents of the area supported him, he said that when he calls public meetings “the hall is full” that people “don’t have a problem with” the reports that he presents.

The ANC’s Western Cape Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) spokesperson Jabu Mfusi denied that the people who torched Mpondwana’s office were ANC members and said that the police would need to investigate to determine whether there was a connection between the torching and anger at the chosen candidates.

“Members of the African National Congress can never do such a thing. These are thugs. Members of the ANC can never vandalise, they cannot threaten. Our induction is not to pick up a hand against your own comrade. We fight internally but we also seek resolutions that are amicable,” said Mfusi.

When asked whether the community was supportive of their current councillor Mfusi said that he couldn’t respond to that but was firm in condemning the attack last night. “This is not only happening here, it is happening in Mfuleni and Du Noon,” he said.

“Why are they actually doing these things to an ANC ward councillor?” Mfuti asked.

He said that there is a process for people who are unhappy with their ward councillor or with the process of selection of candidates and that people can submit these complaints to the party. “[I am] calling on our people not to take law into own hand and follow the channels and processes,” he said.

Nelson Banise, who told GroundUp that he is a member of the DA working committee in the ward, alleged that Mpondwana moved people up the housing list if they paid him.

“Because the councillor has authority [to put people] on the waiting list, he gets to manipulate it,” said Banise alleging that if people paid Mpondwana he would move them up the list.

Banise said that the community did not like Mpondwana and that he “must go”.

He claims that it was ANC members who were fighting and weren’t happy with the situation so they burnt the building.

A resident in the area who did not want to be named, reiterated the concerns that Banise had about Mpondwana. He also said that he had heard that the culprits of yesterday’s fire were people who were not happy with the proposed ANC candidates for their ward.

The resident alleges that before Mpondwana was made councillor he was on the steering committee for new RDP houses in the area and that he took bribes to move people up the housing list. He also claims that people who are connected to the ANC would go onto the list despite not living in the area when the housing project was being built. He believes that the burning of Mpondwana’s office is connected to this.

“He’s not clean,” said the resident.

GroundUp has previously reported on Councillor Mpondwana. See here and here.

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TOPICS:  Housing Local Elections 2016

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