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ANALYSIS

ANC set to kiss goodbye to Durban after Zandile Gumede win

Illustrative image//Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede (Photo: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart). A group of voting delegates arrives at the ICC in Durban in high spirits. (Photo: Mandla Langa). Zandile Gumede in a Durban court on Tuesday facing corruption charges relating to an irregular municipal waste tender (Picture: Mandla Langa)

It might be a pyrrhic victory for the former mayor of eThekwini council, who will be in the dock in July as a co-accused in a solid waste tender corruption case.

Just how far removed the ANC in Durban has grown from the people of the city was reflected by the election of former mayor and corruption accused Zandile Gumede as ANC eThekwini regional chairperson.  

As mayor she led a faction that became so insular and self-serving that it didn’t notice its drop in support. By November 2021, the administration of her successor, Mxolisi Kaunda, led a campaign which saw the party’s support drop to 42% on a very low voter turnout in what should be an ANC stronghold. Durban’s citizens expressed their disdain either by staying away or by voting for the opposition. 

Like other key cities, the ANC now governs in coalition and if the trajectory of the so-called formal Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction’s governance continues, it’s game over for the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal’s largest city in 2024 when national and provincial elections will be held. The city is not up for grabs, but city seats will be contested on the provincial and national ballots.  

Gumede and her co-accused will appear in court in July on 2,793 charges related to a solid waste tender. The charges are being brought under prevention of organised crime legislation.  

Voting delegates in high spirits arrive at the ICC in Durban. (Photo: Mandla Langa)

The former mayor is likely to step aside in line with ANC procedures, but her election – won with 210 votes compared with 181 for her rival, eThekwini Municipality speaker Thabani Nyawose – was designed as a show of strength by the RET faction of the party. It is being billed as a proxy battle to assess President Cyril Ramaphosa’s strength in his own party, but until the number of delegates it takes to the elective conference in December are revealed, it’s impossible to assess its present strength. In the past, the region has been a kingmaker in the ANC.  

Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede in a Durban court on Tuesday facing corruption charges relating to an irregular municipal waste tender. (Picture: Mandla Langa)

Now, that may no longer be the case as ANC’s control through governance has dissipated. The latest Auditor-General report on the city found some improvements but still reveals that key projects are held up, likely because of tender battles. The city is controlled by various syndicates and it is one of the few municipal governments that has a formal radical economic transformation directorate. Des Erasmus reported that it has absorbed “business forums” into the city, either by employing members or designing tenders for them. Business forums are regarded as mafia extortion rackets which are a rising business and political risk in the country. The council is also an employment agency for factions of the RET.  

Celebrations erupt over the new eThekwini regional leadership: Thembo Ntuli, new deputy chairperson; Musa Nciki, new secretary; and Nkosenhle Madlala, new deputy secretary. (Picture: Mandla Langa)

Daily Maverick reported here how the leader of the military veterans who took two ministers and a deputy minister hostage in 2021 worked for the eThekwini council. In the July 2021 looting and violence, which was worst in Durban, members of the ANC from the region were alleged to have been ringleaders and organisers who incited poor communities. In December, the incompetent and distracted administration caused sewage leaks so serious that many holidaymakers got ill, taking a scythe to tourism which is one of the biggest contributors to provincial GDP. 

Read in Daily Maverick: ANC leaders poised to address the step-aside sidestepping

This is the faction that has now won resoundingly in the region, taking all the top positions in a powerful showing of slate politics. But the outcome may be a pyrrhic victory as Durban’s residents are said to be growing increasingly tired of the ANC’s self-interest and aggrandisement in the beautiful city. DM

 

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  • Perhaps, if we’re lucky, the RET faction will cause the amputation of KZN from the rest of the Republic. Perhaps, if we ask Putin nicely, he can help the process along by advising, since he’s been so successful with geopolitical amputations. Honestly, we’ll all be better off if KZN goes it alone – the Republic, no, sorry… the Kingdom of Zululand.

  • If the ANC (KZN) continues to weaken and comes to be seen as a separate breakaway political entity to the ANC (SA) then that would be a major development. This is a narrative that deserves to be nurtured. The ANC (KZN) would be fighting future home turf political battles without the full support of national structures.

    If , as you say, the ANC (KZN) is already falling out of favour with Durban voters then all of this is a major set back for the “winners” at this conference. We have already seen the ANC in the Western Cape reduced to irrelevance and hopefully the same could happen in KZN, albeit for slightly different reasons.

  • The ANC in Durban operates as a criminal gang. Much Ethekwini electorate has shown itself willing to participate in the plunder as evidenced by the July riots. Whether this constitutes a majority remains to be seen, but I would not assume that it isn’t so.

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