Tension is running high in Cape Town as South Africas ruling African National Congress (ANC) continues its efforts to sideline the city government led by Helen Zille of the national main opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) and take control under a different system.

Cape Town is the only major city in South Africa not under ANC control after the party lost power to a fragile seven-party coalition led by DA in the March 2006 elections.

Now ANC provincial minister for local government and housing in the Western Cape, Richard Dyantyi, has proposed changing the present executive mayoral system of government into one run by a ten-member executive committee known as exco, with seats allocated in proportion to the number of votes obtained. This would exclude DAs smaller coalition partners, potentially leaving ANC and the Independent Democrats (ID), the citys third largest party, in control.

However, while in favour of the executive committee system, ID has said it will not support ANCs power grab in the city. We agree that the exco is a better form of government but, more importantly, we also believe in democracy, the party said in a statement.

DA is resisting the change and ruling coalition members boycotted a meeting with Dyantyi in mid October to discuss the proposal. Interested parties now have until early November to reach an agreement.

ANC has the backing of large sections of the local black and coloured population, despite disillusionment over the former ANC-led city governments failure to deliver on promises of housing and services.