Tiny party torn apart as two leaders suspend each other
The tiny African Independent Congress (AIC) party has been plunged into turmoil by a power struggle between its leader and his deputy - and the ANC's control of Ekurhuleni could be at risk as a result.
The AIC became the kingmaker in the Ekurhuleni metro council after the local elections in 2016, when the ANC fell three seats short of a majority.
Sources say the four AIC councillors in Ekurhuleni who formed a coalition with the ANC are split between the two camps that have emerged in their party - one led by party president Mandlenkosi Galo and the other by his deputy, Lulama Ntshayisa.
The AIC's unravelling came to light this week after Galo's camp wrote to the office of National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to say Ntshayisa had been suspended from the party and should be removed as an MP.
But Ntshayisa immediately hit back, writing a similar letter to Mbete telling her that it was Galo who should be removed because it was he who had been placed on precautionary suspension by the party.
Letters have also been sent to the speakers of councils where the AIC has councillors.
The AIC has one other MP in the National Assembly, Mahlubandile Jafta.
Mbete's office this week told Ntshayisa that Galo could not be removed from the business of parliament on the basis of internal party disciplinary processes.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Ntshayisa said he was running a parallel leadership structure that he put together after he and his supporters were allegedly sidelined at a party congress in April.
Ntshayisa said he did not recognise Galo's structure and he wanted it to be disbanded.
"That is why we also called our people and formed our own interim structure so that it runs parallel and we can challenge them and, when they suspend us, we can also suspend them," he said.
CIRCUMVENTING THE PROCESS
Galo referred queries to AIC spokesperson Mxolisi Koom, who said problems started in December last year when the party tried to hold an elective conference.
Koom, who is in the Galo camp, said Ntshayisa's supporters rejected the adoption of credentials when they realised the numbers favoured Galo.
He said the Ntshayisa group then launched a failed court application to stop the party's April congress.
"They tried to interdict the conference but the application was struck off the roll because it lacked material reasons for it to be entertained.
"They wanted to circumvent the democratic processes because they were defeated in terms of numbers," said Koom.
Aubrey Mhlongo, an AIC councillor in the Johannesburg metro council who is aligned to Ntshayisa, said the Ntshayisa group had questioned the credentials of the elections agency that ran the December conference.
"Their credentials were suspect. We discovered that they had never run an election before."