In a move that is sure to escalate smouldering tensions between the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and African National Congewss-led coalitions in KwaZulu-Natal, the uMvoti Local Municipality's troika has officially fired eight IFP councillors and one other on account of their absence from consecutive council meetings in July.
The eight include Petros Ngubane, who doubles as the mayor of the uMzinyathi District Municipality. The ninth councillor, Mbuyiseni Majozi, belongs to the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC).
KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi put the final nail in their coffin when she wrote a letter on 18 September to the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC), notifying the commission of the councillors' axing.
Six of them are ward councillors, meaning the municipal manager will have to declare vacancies and, by default, steps toward by-elections.
The IFP has previously decried the axing of its councillors as an ANC tactic to change the balance of power in municipalities that were hung in the 2021 municipal elections.
In a letter to IEC KwaZulu-Natal electoral officer Ntombifuthi Masinga, which News24 has seen, Sithole-Moloi concurred with ABC speaker Mfundo Masondo's notice to fire the nine councillors.
"Please be advised that, in line with the legal powers conferred upon me in terms of item 16  of the code of conduct for municipal councillors, I have issued letters of removal as councillors of uMvoti to the [nine] councillors," the letter reads.
In July, Masondo wrote to the IFP leaders warning them that they had abdicated their duties by being absent from or walking out without apologies in four consecutive meetings.
Masondo notified Ngubane and others of the council leadership's plan to take steps against them and gave the councillors a deadline to respond.
He previously described the councillors' responses to the notice as "underwhelming" and said their affidavits were peppered with "irregularities".
Speaking to News24, Ngubane said the axing was a spit on the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi's attempts at reconciliation between the ANC and IFP, both of which still bear wounds from violence that killed 20 000.
Ngubane said he used Buthelezi's funeral to get an audience with Sithole-Moloi to make her see reason.
He said: "I've written a letter to the MEC. I think I'm still in mourning, as I had close ties with the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. While we were at KwaPhindangene, I had an audience with the MEC, national minister and deputy minister of Cogta, talking about issues.
"I'm disappointed that the MEC is handling matters like this. I've written a letter to her reminding her what her department said on this matter. There are flaws in this matter. The MEC is abusing her power," he added.
He said: "The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has no decency and no ubuntu in their approach of doing things. It is a mockery of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal to have come and pay respects at the house of the founder of the IFP, Prince Buthelezi ... [and] for them to behave like this.
"I don't think the ANC is serious about reconciliation. As a person who has been really close to the prince of KwaPhindangene, I can tell you and attest and confirm that the ANC is not serious about reconciliation because it is doing this to the IFP.
"Nevertheless, if we go to the polls, we're going to show them. I pray the Lord of Prince Buthelezi helps us to show the world that the IFP is here."