Mayor’s supporters prepare for court
Bold decisions needed to regain people’s confidence
HOURS after the ANC in KwaZuluNatal (KZN) confirmed it had fired Zandile Gumede as eThekwini mayor, her supporters started a two-pronged legal process to fight her axing.
The leader of the support group, Mzomuhle Dube, told Independent Media yesterday its legal challenge would start this week at the Pietermaritzburg High Court where it would be fighting the party over its June decision to disband the eThekwini region of the ANC.
This was chaired by Gumede and deputised by Mondli Mthembu, both accused of fraud and corruption in connection with an alleged dodgy R208 million eThekwini waste collection tender.
Dube said after going through the report that was used to fire Gumede as mayor, they would decide whether to take that issue to court or not.
Stressing that the report used was illegal as the party relied on a Cogta (Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs) report which he claimed was only assessing officials, not political deployees, he hinted that they may challenge it in court.
“This is a continuation of what we have already started. The matter that will soon be filed in court is the one about the disbanding of the structure (eThekwini region ANC).
“But still we want to study whether the report the PEC (provincial executive committee) relied on to reach its decision was lawful. We will take it from there and explore our legal recourse. We have those two (actions) that are lined up,” Dube said.
Following her axing as mayor of KZN’s only metro, Gumede has remained mum about her future.
On the other side, the ANC was also tight-lipped about who would replace Gumede and the other seven executive committee members. This was after the party fired them, saying it would announce their replacements next week Thursday after meeting branches.
Several names were being touted, including those of MECs in the provincial cabinet who only came to office after the May elections.
One dark horse that emerged from sources in the ANC was the name of former deputy mayor, Nomvuzo Shabalala.
Shabalala left the municipality in 2016, together with former mayor James Nxumalo.
She is now a member of the national assembly representing the province in Cape Town.
“I don’t see James Nxumalo coming back to work with the same people who embarrassed him. Maybe Nomvuzo can consider coming back to be mayor, but not James. He was badly treated,” said an ANC member in the region, who asked not to be named.
With no formal structure of the ANC in the region, it was not easy to tell who would get the position of deputy mayor, speaker, chief whip and the chairs of committees.
Addressing the press yesterday after the firing of Gumede and her Msunduzi counterpart, Themba Njilo, the provincial secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, said the exco members Zama Sokhabase, Barbara Fortein and former chief whip, Neli Nyanisa would be redeployed within the municipality.
He said there would be no vacuum as the current top structure, with acting mayor Fawzia Peer remaining in charge. However, Gumede’s future in the municipality was not clear.
“Gumede is not returning to work tomorrow, no,” Ntuli said, when asked to clarify what would happen to her as the others would stay in their positions until a new team was announced.
However, she was expected to make it into the regional task team that was still being formulated after it had been rejected by branches when it was first announced in June.
DURING the past few years, a disturbing trend of entitlement and corruption developed within the majority of municipalities.
Some councillors had shown disdain for the law and the culture of accountability.
The frustration and anger expressed by residents through service delivery protests before the May 8 elections proved beyond doubt that the country’s local government had become the biggest political, economic and social liability.
With the 2021 local government elections coming, the issue of local government performance needs to be an urgent one or that election day could be revolution day.
Although ruling parties in different municipalities want us to believe that they are in control of the situation, residents are continuously inundated with reports of mayors, councillors and municipal managers not upholding their public mandates and not adhering to the principle of good governance, namely accountability, integrity and responsiveness.
There is no doubt that unless strong action is taken against the corrupt and dysfunctional municipalities, residents will shun the 2021 local government elections. This calls for bold decisions and effective programmes to reconnect councillors and residents in order to regain local government confidence. After all, local government can and should serve as a catalyst to bring resources, people, programmes and plans together to accomplish common local goals.
In the wake of the KZN ANC’s support having dropped by 10% in the May 8 national and provincial elections, the party needs to be applauded for taking urgent and bold decisions against municipalities implicated by the latest Auditor General’s report as dysfunctional.
Though the issues were badly handled, the intention will be accepted by members and citizens as a step towards the right direction.
For instance, the issues of crime and corruption associated with the mayors of Newcastle and eThekwini Metro should have been dealt with summarily.
The PEC has political authority to deploy, recall and redeploy – why did it fail to use that authority? This has sent a message of indecisiveness and being soft on these serious transgressions.
Though the two leaders have not been found guilty by the courts, the accusations are serious enough to demand urgent action in the perception-ridden political space.
It is my belief that mayors are not the only ones responsible for local government failures.
Councillors and municipal officials are also responsible. Hence the PEC should have consulted communities to find out whether they were happy with performances of councillors.
Councillors have tarnished local government’s image and reputation, and as a result it no longer commands public confidence, trust, support, acceptance and importance.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) has warned the government that the financial doldrums of local government were inhibiting economic and development performances and a big threat to the country’s investment drive. “It is Sacci’s view that the manner in which municipalities are led, managed and operated is the primary cause of their problems. Government’s own current practice of how leadership and management are appointed to run its municipalities is where all problems start.”
It is high time that the ANC realises the fact that having skilled and competent people driving the engine of delivery are absolute prerequisites if they are to deliver basic services to the masses. While honesty and capacity should be prerequisites for selection to be a councillor, skills and not political affiliation should be the main criterion for employment or advancement in local government.
It is unfortunate that party members have turned local government into a fertile ground for feathering their nests through corruption and looting.
Like other municipalities elsewhere, KZN municipalities, particularly eThekwini and Msunduzi, have been the worst performers over the past three years.
The PEC’s decisions to change their leaderships are welcomed but a lot still needs to done to change their fortunes ahead of the 2021 elections.
Now the PEC’s focus needs to shift to ensuring that the eThekwini and Msunduzi’s elective regional congresses take place within a genuine democratic environment in order to ensure that their outcomes are accepted by all.
The conferences are expected to be highly contested. And for the PEC to emerge with honest and capable leaders that will appeal to voters in 2021, it has to give support to branches to run their election process freely and fairly.
Or else the PEC’s current decision is likely to backfire as the fired mayors are likely to retreat to their branches and mobilise for their comebacks.
Do not be surprised if a number of independent candidates who were former ANC councillors contest the coming elections.
For now the PEC’s decision is a landmark one – I, wish others learn from it.
RICARDO Mthembu, left, the new spokesperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, and ANC KZN secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli discuss the decisions that were taken by the party’s provincial executive committee on leadership changes it made in its municipalities.
DURBAN City Hall – the heart of the eThekwini Municipality. The writer says the issues associated with the Newcastle and eThekwini metros should have been dealt with summarily.