South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal: Upheaval wakes up memories of violence and terror

By Cyril Madlala 19 May 2016

The older generation in KwaZulu-Natal politics that survived the war between the ANC and the IFP more than two decades ago, regardless of party allegiances, shares a unanimous view: that was an episode none would wish their children to live through. By CYRIL MADLALA.

But as the provincial wing of the South African Communist Party warned this week, fires of intense political anger are burning once again.

Indeed, it does feel like we wake up every day to a new chapter of violent protest in some part of the province.

This week, it was the turn of the town of Kokstad on the South Coast to shut down businesses as marauding angry mobs unleashed their fury wantonly.

According to the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), only a swift response by the police foiled an attempt to burn a local school.

On the N2, near Lamontville in Durban, tyres burnt while protest action resulted in the closure of the M19 between Umgeni and Roger Sishi Roads.

Elsewhere, in KwaDukuza, north of Durban, members of the community who demanded speed humps torched three sugarcane trucks on the R102.

The provincial department of health was at the same time contending with disruptions that compromised health delivery in three hospitals, including at Montebello in Ndwedwe, where a crowd of about 100 people barricaded the road and locked the main gate. No patients could be admitted or discharged.

It was a similar story at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi where protesters demanded to be employed by the government and allegedly deliberately flooded sections of the hospital, damaging sections of the facility as well as stationery.

Meanwhile, reports about disruptions in schools feature in the media daily.

The mystery is, what is behind the sudden upsurge of this defiance and lawlessness which appears to be aimed at undermining all forms of authority?

A common thread emerging from official responses from the government suggests that there are concerns that these are not spontaneous reactions, but are being instigated deliberately by forces with a political agenda.

In its statement, Cogta says:

We will be analysing this (Kokstad) incident with the police and we vow that there will be consequences for breaking the law. We will nip this anarchy in the bud because if left unattended, it poses a risk to our hard-won democracy.

There is no act of violence that can resolve or substitute a resolution of any concern through peaceful means of engagement. We will deploy maximum resources to investigate the incident further to ensure that not only the foot soldiers but also the ringleaders of this act of vandalism are brought to book without delay.”

Although it is not always obvious how disputes over the nomination of candidates for the August local government elections can result in such extremely violent forms of protest, it is true that in many conflict areas, that is the background.

The ANC in the province has not healed the wounds from the hotly contested provincial leadership election that saw Sihle Zikalala’s slate emerge victorious over forces lined up behind former chairperson Senzo Mchunu, who remains the head of the provincial government as the premier.

As the province consolidates its regional lists in preparation for the August election, there is an emerging pattern that suggests that those who were on the “wrong” slate during the provincial election will be sidelined from the lucrative, senior posts in local government, regardless of their suitability and experience.

It is these nomination processes that have further driven the wedge between the two groups, and the provincial Communist Party is convinced that not everything is being done above board.

After its provincial executive committee meeting this week, the SACP expressed its “dissatisfaction and disappointment” about the manner in which the process was being managed.

It raised “serious concerns” about the “disregard of the views of the alliance partners, the community and adherence or compliance with the ANC guidelines”, and said it shared the feeling of many structures on the ground that the nomination processes “were rendered a sham if not a farce”.

It resolved to engage the ANC on “all the irregularities and noncompliance in the candidate selection process” and also to escalate the matter to the national structures of the alliance.

While it condemned “the violent protests that have become a daily occurrence in many parts of the province” the SACP also called upon “everyone within the alliance to respect the will of the people, the character of our organisations and its struggle legacies”.

The sting was in the tail, as it concluded its media statement:

The PEC has reflected deeply on the escalating protests arising out of the arrogant, reckless and fraudulent decisions in the nomination processes of councillors. In many instances, imposition of unpopular names against the community-chosen names (is) a cause for protests in our townships, especially in Durban and now the killings of comrades. The killings that are growing unabatedly (are) a function of manipulation of the election process which could have been avoided if we, as leaders, were honest and fair. The killing of the poor and working-class leaders is treated as normal, The Communist Party says enough is enough, no more killings any more must be tolerated.”

As is the nature of the relationship between the partners in the ANC, SACP and Cosatu alliance, these sentiments will in the course of time make their way through to the agenda of their meeting.

What is not clear though is if there will still be time to undo the damage, assuming that, indeed, dissatisfaction with the councillors’ nomination processes is behind the wave of these violent protests which have re-ignited flames we had all hoped had been extinguished forever.

The fear is that the latest divisions in the ANC might run deeper than the mere issue of council seats. The very reason for being ANC members is under closer scrutiny between the contending forces.

In a democratic dispensation such as ours where there are legitimate means for public participation, there is no need for violent confrontation and we therefore cannot tolerate it when it does occur. Our job as government is to protect public property as well as the lives of innocent people,” said KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube. DM

Photo: Sihle Zikalala (Photo: Khaya Magenu/News24)

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