DRESSED to impress, and filling a recent councillor vacancy in the Democratic Alliance, Sikhumbuzo “Skura” Venene took his oath of office at the last open council meeting of the year, held at Cannon Rocks on Monday.
The erudite councillor is no stranger to the council, having served as a member of the ruling ANC from 2011 until the municipal elections this year, when his position as Ward 9 councillor was taken over by Mbuleli “Stwiga” Njibana.
This change of candidates in Ward 9 was preceded by controversy, as Venene had been re-elected in an ANC branch general meeting in January. Njibana’s supporters, however, pushed for a public vote for “the people’s choice”.
The following month a public meeting at was held Jauka Hall where a vote was taken in contradiction of the provincial ANC’s decision not to entertain such votes.
ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane elaborated on the situation in an article in the Daily Dispatch on February 18. Mabuyane said people who failed to make the cut in branch meetings used the public meetings to lobby outside support, even to the extent of opposition parties undermining the process.
The Ward 9 tussle was kept in limbo until the ANC provincial list committee revealed its list shortly before the August 3 election, and Njibana was named as the Ward 9 candidate.
Venene kept a low profile after that, but rumours started circulating that he had joined the DA. When asked about this by TotT several weeks ago, he declined to comment other than say “watch this space”. But it became official when the council agenda was published.
Venene had a highly visible profile as an ANC councillor, and was well-known for his work on behalf of fire and flood victims, as well as tackling Eskom over power surges in Nemato which had destroyed residents’ appliances. In council meetings he has not shied away from speaking out various issues and even bucked the party line.
He even challenged an ANC stalwart on his township business encroaching on municipal land.
After he was dropped as an ANC candidate, Venene was approached by the DA and asked to join the party.
“I felt that my personal beliefs and political aspirations were in line with the DA, so I had no problem joining the party,” said Venene.
And then, on the resignation of Jane Cowley on her appointment to the provincial legislature, a vacancy existed for a DA proportional representation councillor.
“I was top of the DA’s list,” said Venene. “But I still had to go through a series of interviews to ensure my philosophy was in line with that of the party.”
At Monday’s full council meeting the first item of business announced by speaker Nonkululeko “Vivian” Maphaphu was to induct Venene as a councillor to allow him to participate in the meeting.