South Africa

ANALYSIS

A stunning reversal after KZN floods — the ANC now guilty until proven innocent

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

As the government responds to the devastating damage caused by flooding in KwaZulu-Natal, public displays of anger are mounting. While it is not possible to blame any human agency for a tragedy of this magnitude, this will not stop people from wanting to lash out. What is happening now, essentially, is that the present administration in KZN, and the ANC in particular, is being blamed for what is a natural disaster.

While this may appear to be unfair, it is also true that the ANC has done much to create the current conditions of mistrust on the ground. It is only because ANC officials regularly fail to care in desperate moments such as these that so many people are convinced that the party is hopelessly corrupt and that even the flood relief funds will be stolen. 

Unfortunately for the ANC, it now appears that KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala does have questions to answer about how a council water tanker went directly to his home, in full view of other community members queuing up for water at a local mosque*. 

While there is important evidence that climate change was one of the causes of last week’s brutal deluge in KZN, it is obvious that no one single person, entity, government or nation can be held responsible for what happened. This is a natural disaster. As were the floods in 1987 and others before that.

Despite this — as people have realised how bad their situation is, compounded by the impact of the pandemic over the past two years — there has been intense anger directed at the government.

For the moment, it appears that Zikalala may become the focal point of this anger, fairly or unfairly.

The premier told SAfm that the water tanker only went to his home as part of a trip to the local community.

However, members of the La Mercy Civic and Ratepayers Association who saw the tanker arrive, describe it differently. They say that many people were gathered at a local mosque and community hall waiting for help, food and water. And that, “… in full view of all those present, the water tanker proceeded to the home of the premier, after which the driver offloaded the entire tanker for the exclusive use of the premier’s home only”.

anc zikalala ethekwini water tanker
A screenshot from the video that went viral showing a tanker delivering water to KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala’s home. (Screenshot: TikTok)

Zikalala apologised and promised that it would never happen again.

However, this may not be enough. Because of the public anger and frustration at the floods and the damage they have caused, he now runs the risk of becoming a focal point of these sentiments.

While this may be personally uncomfortable for Zikalala, it is not just him who risks a backlash. It is, in fact, all of the ANC.

This is not only because of the government’s response to the flood and the anticipated fresh wave of corruption, but also because of the underlying conditions of our society.

It should be remembered that this is not about fairness. Sometimes public anger needs a direction in which to flow; it is human to be angry at a situation. Like the floodwaters, it can be redirected, but that anger cannot always be curbed.

This would not be the first time a political party in government has been blamed for a natural disaster. As we have already seen during the pandemic, our government and others have been blamed for events beyond their control. In some cases, this may well lead to governments being voted out of power, even if they did nothing wrong.

As my father never said: politics, like life, is not fair.

However, the problem here is that public anger over corruption, maladministration and basic poor governance has been mounting for many years.

It is no secret that voters are fed up with crumbling streets, poor services and on top of it all the never-ending power cuts which are entirely the ANC’s fault.

Twelve years of load shedding – written, starring & directed by the ANC

While the ANC claims to be following an agenda of “renewal”, it is not certain that everyone in the party agrees with that agenda. If they did, former Durban mayor Zandile Gumede would not have been elected leader of the ANC’s Ethekwini region while facing a raft of corruption charges.

It is also very possible that other scandals or claims of wrongdoing emerge after the flooding. This is possible for two reasons.

The first is that some people in the ANC may well feel that the incoming period is their last time to loot — that they could be out of power in the province in 2024 and thus they need to steal as much money as possible as quickly as possible. 

For others, the misuse of government resources may simply have become so normalised that they know no other way of doing business. This may well intensify because some in the party believe this form of patronage needs to be stepped up to win votes in 2024.

The other reason is that our society has become more transparent.

As Zikalala has found, it is impossible to have a water tanker sent to your home and for no one to notice it, tweet about it and complain loudly about it.

While public anger cannot be stopped or dammed, it can be deflected or focused elsewhere.

This may mean that any distraction or misstep by another political party — or any other issue — could be used to try to redirect this anger. Considering the degree of racialised inequality in our society, it could be easiest to somehow change the flow of anger in this direction.

While some in government and the ANC may want to repeat the point that it is unfair to blame them for the flooding in KZN, the situation may be more complicated than that.

One of the main reasons corruption has been allowed to grow in our society for so long is precisely because people in the ANC refused to act against it. Anyone who spoke up against then president Jacob Zuma, or then Free State premier Ace Magashule, or the Arms Deal more than 20 years ago, was ignored, insulted or removed from their position.

During this time, one phrase became prevalent, particularly concerning Zuma. It was, “innocent until proven guilty”. This was repeated and chanted and shouted and sung over and over again.

How ironic is it, then, that so many in the ANC in KZN are now considered by voters to be “guilty until proven innocent”. DM

*An amendment was made to this article at 9.24am on 21 April 2022.

 

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All Comments 21

  • So typically ANC! They care about no one but themselves. As that slimy serial liar and fraudster ex president said, the party comes first, not SA. This country is on its knees and yet looting continues with impunity. The halls of power are still filled with highly compromised thieves as if that is normal. The only way to save SA is to get rid of the rotten to the core ANC!

  • and isn’t it strange that if he (JZ) is innocent, as he and his hangers-on insist, you would think by now he would have clambered to get into the courtroom to prove his innocence, instead of using every trick in the book to avoid this…..very strange. They obviously think two wrongs make a right…

  • The ANC is guilty of corruption on a grand scale. The guilty are not prosecuted, but protected by the party. These actions lead to hunger, poverty, unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, filthy hospitals, failing schools, violence and death. The evidence is plain to see. They are guilty!

  • Stephen is not entirely correct in stating that the ANC cannot be blamed for a natural disaster. ANC municipal mismanagement must take some of the blame. Where storm water drains are blocked by litter water will find other uncontrolled routes to run off, making the damage worse. Where damage to bridge embankments, water courses, roads, etc due to previous flooding or or inadequate construction is not repaired, further flood damage will be much worse. Where people are allowed (sometimes on payment to some corrupt municipal official) to live on river flood plains, their losses in floods will be much worse. The ANC did not cause the floods, but ANC mismanagement has made the consequences much worse, even before reports of stolen relief funds start coming in.

    • Hundred % correct the dysfunctional DSW waste removal contract which our honorable ex mayor Gumede is still to answer for was a factor in causing deaths, she has blood on her hands.

  • I wonder where he stored a full tanker load of water, in the firepool perhaps? It seems to me that Jesus has arrived in KZN sooner than expected by the ANC.

  • The word DISASTER is appropriate as it defines the ANC. Within 5 minutes of aid packages arriving at Virginia Airport, municipal officials were helping themselves. Disgraceful!

  • I do not believe the “new” curated comments section is actually working? Unless I am mistaken, it has actually stopped people from commenting?

    • Absolutely correct. It takes several hours after one has passed the initial kindergarten test for the seemingly mythical moderator to decide whether one’s comment will be posted or not. It means also that when one posts a comment there are a number of comments that have been made already but are backed up in the system. When I posted a comment at 9.50 this morning, no other comments were present yet there were apparently at least nine in the system. The one above by Geoff Krige above is very similar to the one I have made. I would not have bothered to comment if I had been able to see his comment.

  • Honest efficient businessmen refuse to do business when offered big increases to their enders, with guaranteed acceptance, provided kickbacks are included . . . so only third-rate manipulaters do government work, hence ouor problems.

  • Nah, I’ve considered the ANC to be guilty until proven innocent since the Arms Deal scandal broke. But then again, prior to the Arms Deal I didn’t really have much confidence in a bunch of terrorists claiming to be able to govern effectively when all they really knew was how to break things and throw tantrums like a toddler when they didn’t get their way.

    In summary, after studying the liberation struggle at tertiary undergrad level, I came to the conclusion that the ANC and it’s alliance partners were simply not an agent of Civilization. If anything, they were quite the opposite. The sheer multitude of dishonest shenanigans that stains the soul of that movement has merely proven me correct.

  • Stephen, you are too forgiving to place all the blame for the consequences of the devastating floods on “a natural disaster”. Many reports, by people who know KZN and Durban in particular, that one reads, attribute a significant factor in the devastation was the failure of local governance to maintain storm drains, roads etc. and not take proactive steps knowing that serious flooding was predictable in KZN.

  • “A stunning reversal after KZN floods — the ANC now guilty until proven innocent”. NOW?

    A headline begging to be put down. Ever since the first revelations about the infamous Arms Deal, the ANC has been “guilty until proven innocent”. There have been hundreds of thousands similar incidents. Virtually daily. The word Stalingrad should be translated into all 9 official languages.
    How would the average person be treated if they diverted a tanker full of water to their private homes for their personal use? What should be the response of functional law enforcement?

    “While it is not possible to blame any human agency”.

    Another sitting duck for a put down. More than 400 people have died because of “human agency”. National and Provincial government do nothing to stop the poor building homes in river beds. This is not the first such tragedy. There will be more. “Natural disaster” does not cover this type of situation.

    These floods were far worse than was necessary BECAUSE government failed. Homes in river beds. Poor maintenance of drainage. Failing infrastructure.

  • Zikalala apologises and says it won’t happen again !!! It happened and in full view of many in the community who have been left destitute, what makes Zikalala think his apology means anything to anybody?
    Hopefully people will see the uncaring and self serving attitude of many of these ANC political elite and come election day, vote them out. hopefully people will balance the fact that Zikalala and his ilk made sure, with personal water deliveries, that they were not going to be affected by the damage to our infrastructure, and will weigh up the election food parcels and T shirts against the failure of the government to put them first in their need for potable water in this tragic period. The moto is clear,
    ” Me first, then the ANC and then the people”

  • Whilst the floods may be a natural disaster the ANC is guilty of making things worse. They have not maintained the storm water drainage systems, they have not maintained the sewerage farms and systems, and they have not maintained the roads. They are also responsible for not allocating suitable land to homeless people. Therefore many homes and shacks were built on hillsides and too close to rivers. These are all problems that could have and should have been managed by the ANC for years. The rampant theft of Covid equipment has made them guilty too. How many of the ANC cadres responsible for this grand scale larceny are in jail?? I think it is completely understandable that South Africans now view the ANC as “guilty until proven innocent”.

  • It is likely that officials (Ethekwini, KZN & National Depts) responsible for the poor planning, lack of maintenance, blocked drains, unmanaged development impacts, lack of protection of ecological infrastructure that deals with stormwater etc, will simply now claim the disaster is climate induced. It is as much due to the lack of investment in natural systems, road and drain maintenance, moving people out of harms way etc. The disaster is as much man made as “natural” or climate exacerbated. The municipality had one of the best environment and climate departments – it is a shame they havent been given the budget or control they’ve been asking for for the last 2 decades

  • The effect felt from natural disasters happen because governments do not forward plan appropriately. Corruption happens because voters do not choose wisely. Together they contribute to national disasters. The people need to think carefully who they wish to have lead and not complain if their chosen leaders care less about them. Vote responsibly citizens.

  • Geoff Krige hits it right on the head. The mechanism to achieve this was BEE and affirmative action. It involves the removal of skills and standards and replacement with the political faithful in a knowledge vacuum. When we have argued objections/appeals against blatant spatial planning contraventions, we have been met by ‘rulers’ who do not even understand what the argument is about. The only outcome can be crash and burn and it will be in difficult times like this that it is fully exposed.

  • It took what…? …maybe 5 seconds for these scoundrels to once again show their complete disdain for common decency. There is simply no shame, no pride, zero integrity as evidenced by this reported matter and the plunder of packs arriving for front line workers at Virginia Airport. The audacity of municipal employees piling and helping themselves is beyond belief. Just another day of brazen theft and corruption to add to every other day. Are there words to describe this relentless, despicable behavior? Nope…

  • What utter nonsense to blame climate change again. People settling in flood plains and steep, unstable soil with the permission and knowledge of local authorities are to be blamed. 1984 floods in northern KZN and Swaziland were caused by more than 600 mm in 24 hours – much more rain than the current 400mm in 48 hours. There were fewer people in harm’s way and the government’s response was much better. Lack of proper risk assessment, poor development planning, and governance should be blamed for the loss of life and infrastructure – Not climate change.

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