South Africa

KZN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Jozini’s new mayor promises to dump dead wood, tap into nearby dam to help thirsty communities

Naye Mathe, Mayor of Jozini in KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo: Mandla Langa)

‘I see myself as the new coach taking over at Jozini municipality,’ said incoming mayor Naye Mathe, who has outlined his plans to tackle failed water supply, vaccine hesitancy, cross-border crime syndicates and boost tourism in the poor areas of rural northeastern KwaZulu-Natal.

There was chaos — banging of tables and throwing of chairs — and police had to intervene on Friday, 19 November when Naye Mathe was being sworn in as the executive mayor of Jozini local municipality in the small rural town of Jozini, about 345km north of Durban.

In Jozini, 45 council seats were up for grabs in November’s local government elections. The IFP won 24 seats, getting 52.5% of the votes. The ANC came in second with 16 seats, the Economic Freedom Fighters got two seats, two independents won two seats and the Academic Congress Union won a single seat.

Days earlier, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and IFP founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi had brokered a deal in which the two parties agreed to support each other in hung municipalities by virtue of allowing the party with the most seats to take over.  

But in Jozini, chaos erupted after the ANC decided to field its own mayoral candidate in a bid to take control of the council, even though the IFP had won a clear majority.

In the end, the IFP managed to get Mathe sworn in as mayor, replacing Delani Mabika, also from the IFP. 

“I guess many people were shocked to see me being nominated as the mayor,” said the IFP chairperson in the region. “But now all the councillors are comfortable with me and we are working well together.”

No sooner had Mathe donned the mayoral chain than he began trending on social media, especially after he declared: “I am going to run this municipality the way I see fit. Do not compare me to anyone else. I am not going to allow connected people from outside Jozini municipal area to think they are going to come here and get jobs. I am not going to dish out tenders to connected companies from outside Jozini municipal areas.”

See Daily Maverick’s Ground Level Report here in the local election buildup:  ANC and IFP mudslinging keeps waterless Jozini residents parched in run-up to polling day

Mathe told Daily Maverick that he has hit the ground running and would vet all senior, middle and junior municipal officials to ascertain that they have the qualifications for the jobs they are doing.

“I see myself as the new coach taking over at Jozini municipality. Now if you are a new coach, you have to have your own game plan. You have to have your own team… a team that would allow you to achieve your goals. Certainly, some of the dead wood would have to go. Some of those who are played into wrong positions would have to make way… change their position to suit my new game plan,” he said.

“For example, I will take the budget to the communities. I will tell these communities that we are going to use this budget to do A, B and C and that they will have time frames when these projects will be completed. As I am taking over now, I realise that the municipality is working, but there are no time frames for projects. I want that to change and I promise that we will speed up service delivery programmes or else those responsible, including municipal officials, will be held accountable.”

Access to water a priority

A lack of water and electricity has long been the lament of residents of Jozini. And especially water. What has always been a mystery in Jozini is that the town is on the doorstep of the massive Jozini Dam (formerly Pongolapoort Dam). Millions were spent on the dam when it was built in the apartheid era. It supplies water to Nongoma, Manguzi and other areas — but not to Jozini and surrounding communities.

Over the years, the communities in and around Jozini have staged often violent protests to demand that they be provided with water. 

The provision of water and sanitation is the responsibility of district rather than local municipalities. The water crisis has been a frequent source of tension between the IFP-run Jozini municipality and the ANC-run Umkhanyakude district municipality, with each blaming the other for the shortage of water in these communities.

“The provision of water to all the wards of Jozini is my immediate priority,” said mayor Mathe. 

Jozini kzn Mathe
A lack of water and electricity has long been the lament of residents of Jozini, especially water. What has always been a mystery in Jozini is that the town is on the doorstep of the massive Jozini Dam. (Photo: Mlungisi Mbele)

“I know many previous mayors have failed to get water from Jozini Dam supplied to all the areas under Jozini municipality. But I am now seized with this responsibility. I don’t believe I will fail. I have done some research and found there are pumps from Jozini Dam pumping to local communities, but that the capacity of these pipes is limited.

“We will increase these pipes as soon as possible… We are looking at getting a contractor that would achieve this. As you know, water is the competency of the district municipality. I have arranged a meeting with Umkhanyakude district mayor Mandla Ndlela, to see how we can speed up this process. 

“I agree with the people of Jozini — we cannot be starving for water when we have Jozini Dam in our backyard.”

He said he will focus on agricultural projects that would see local people benefiting from the Jozini Dam. “We’ve got the Ndumo irrigation programme in the Makhathini Flats area. We want to develop the agricultural capacity of the locals by getting tractors to turn their fields… provide fertilisers and crops so that they can grow products and sell to the market. These areas have a huge potential to develop the local farmers.”

Vaccine hesitancy 

The Jozini area is a problem when it comes to the vaccination drive. 

“I think this is not peculiar to Jozini, but to all rural areas around us,” said Mathe. 

“The problem is that the government, especially the Department of Health, has not come to the people to conduct awareness campaigns. This has allowed anti-vaccination people to spread myths and propaganda. 

“I decided to vaccinate some months ago because I felt that I had to lead the way. Now that I am leading this municipality, I will sit down with the amakhosi (chiefs) and izinduna (headman) to ask them to help in the vaccination drive. 

“But we also need the government to lead us here. They must not only start an awareness campaign… they must also start a vaccination programme in communities so that it doesn’t cost people money to go to hospitals and clinics to vaccinate,” he said.

Cross-border crime

Jozini is frequently used as a staging post by violent crime syndicates. With the town just 100km from the Mozambican border, car thefts and kidnappings are rife. Daily Maverick reported about this in a series in November. (See Part 1 here: KZN border area under siege: Car theft syndicates abduct — and kill — to feed Mozambique smuggling route).

KZN police spokesperson, Colonel Thembeka Mbele, said some people are snatched at night from their homes while others are lured into the region from other areas, where they are robbed and sometimes abducted.

“Police would like to warn the communities of Jozini, Emanguzi and Umkhanyakude district about the car hijacking trend that is taking place in the area,” said Mbele. 

“Many people have been targeted from different areas in the province and outside the province. The criminals target individuals who conduct businesses such as building, carpentry and truck hire services which transport goods.

“The criminals identify these individuals and offer them jobs, especially those that own cars. Once the individual agrees to do the job, they are sent to the ‘intended’ destination. On their arrival, someone will be waiting to hijack them. Their vehicles are then allegedly taken to neighbouring countries.”

Mathe blames the police. “We have heard about this, but I believe the police can easily handle the situation. They must have willpower and mobilise resources and personnel in order to deal with these syndicates once and for all. 

“We cannot allow a situation where people are scared to buy certain types of cars for fear that they will be hijacked and spirited to Mozambique. This is affecting us because even tourists are scared to visit our tourist attractions. They fear being hijacked and robbed. 

“I will be dealing with the local police and escalate this further up in the province and the national office, if necessary. We must find a solution as we cannot be held to ransom by these syndicates.”

Tourism potential  

Mathe said there were many potential tourist attractions that needed to be developed. These included the Border Cave near Swaziland on the western escarpment of the Lebombo Mountains, which has a record of occupation spanning about 200,000 years. The cave was made famous by the discovery of the “Lebombo Bone”, the oldest known artefact that was used as a counting tool. Dating back 35,000 years, it is a piece of baboon fibula scored with 29 notches, similar to the calendar sticks used by the San of Namibia.

“There is also a mountain range from which you can see three countries: South Africa, Mozambique and the Kingdom of Eswatini. All these tourist attractions have to be developed as they have the potential to increase tourism in these areas, bringing in much-needed income, jobs and economic opportunities for the local people,” he said. DM

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