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Unflinching Chris Pappas rises to top DA candidate in battle for KZN

Unflinching Chris Pappas rises to top DA candidate in battle for KZN
Chris Pappas, Mayor of the uMngeni Local Municipality, during the Democratic Alliance (DA) KZN Provincial Congress at Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC Complex on 29 April 2023 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has unveiled Mayor of uMngeni Chris Pappas as its premier candidate in KZN as the race to win the hearts and minds of KZN voters heats up ahead of the 2024 polls.

Chris Pappas speaks isiZulu fluently and has been able to defend himself when labelled a racist or supremacist by the ANC, which has been trying to dislodge Pappas from power, but its efforts have so far failed.

In fact, in the past few years Pappas’ status within the DA has been rising so much that his unveiling as the KZN Premier candidate on Monday was a mere formality, as he has been touted for the position for months.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Chris Pappas: The KZN mayor who threatens the ANC

The upcoming 2024 poll will mark 30 years since the first multiracial elections that allowed South Africa to transcend from apartheid to a democratic state, albeit with many challenges.

In the 2019 general elections, the African National Congress (ANC) won the KZN province convincingly, taking more than 2 million votes and 54% of the provincial vote, followed by the IFP with 16.3%, the DA with 13.9% and the EFF with 9.7%. 

The situation has changed drastically since then. For starters, in recent months the IFP and the DA signed a service delivery pact in the province to ensure that they “work together to improve service delivery and better the lives of residents” and this deal was touted as the pre-2024 election pact between the two parties to co-govern the province and kick the incumbent ANC from the reins of power.

Already, the IFP and DA are involved in power sharing agreements in many hung municipalities in the province. It is that strategic collaboration between the two parties that saw the DA’s Christo Botha being appointed the City of uMhlathuze’s deputy mayor, working with the IFP mayor, Xolani Ngwezi. Read more here.

Also, the IFP resurgence, epitomised by the party’s winning of KZN by-elections from the ruling ANC, has emboldened its supporters, who now fancy their party’s chance of returning to power in KZN for the first time since losing to the ANC nearly 20 years ago in 2004, even if it means riding to power with the DA in tow.

In the November 2021 local government poll, the ANC suffered a huge blow nationally, losing some of the key municipalities to the opposition coalitions. In those elections, nationally the ANC got 46.04% of all ballots cast or a total of 10.693 million votes. The DA, on the other hand received 21.83% of all ballots cast, 5.07 million votes in total. The EFF grew to 10.42% of all ballots cast, or 2.419 million votes in total. The IFP won 5.7% of the vote.

In KZN the IFP made huge gains, winning some of the key municipalities from the ruling ANC. For the first time ever in KZN, the DA won uMngeni Local Municipality in the KZN Midlands outright, where Pappas has been the mayor since November 2021, much to the dismay and deep unhappiness of the ANC, which had run the municipality since the advent of democratic local government in the mid-90s.

Nevertheless, the move to elevate Pappas was surprising to some, especially since the DA has a KZN provincial leader in the form of Francois Rodgers, who insiders said did not throw his hat into the ring for the position of the premier, when the party urged candidates to come forward and stand for positions. This allowed Pappas to run as a sole candidate.

Pappas’ premier candidacy was announced at the Durban City Hall. DA leader and former eThekwini Municipality councillor John Steenhuisen, said it was sad that the council in which he served, and which had hosted one of the best World Cup venues, was now falling apart due to ANC incompetence and corruption. He said his party was hoping to wrest the province away from the ANC to arrest the slide and place the province back on the growth and development trajectory.

In an acceptance speech, Pappas said the responsibility placed upon his shoulders is huge but he has both courage and enthusiasm to carry it through.

He said: “In the face of adversity, we must find our greatest strength – courage. Today, we stand united, a diverse community with a shared vision of hope. Each day, the people of KwaZulu-Natal wake up to confront adversity – keeping businesses open, feeding families, waiting for water trucks to come and not come, and protecting our children from spiralling crime.”

He said it was time South Africans of different races come together to fight common fights, confront the same problem and work towards a common future.

“They said it was impossible for the DA to govern and we did it in Cape Town. They said it would be impossible to govern outside of Cape Town and we took the Western Cape. They said that the DA would be a regional party. We now run 36 municipalities across South Africa with the top five best-run municipalities being run by the DA. And, they said it would be impossible for the DA to win in KZN. Today the DA in the uMngeni Municipality is working hard to turn things around and deliver on our promises. There is still a long way to go to undo 27 years of corruption and cadre deployment but, through hard work, and hope, the DA together with the courageous men and women who chose hope, we rescued uMngeni,” Pappas said.

Xolani Dube, a KZN-based political analyst with the Xubera Research Institute, said it is still early to predict how Pappas’ candidature will change the fortunes of his party in the province in the upcoming poll.

“Pappas [represents] what many people struggled and died for, a country of all races where the colour of the skin does not matter but what matters is what a person does in a position. KwaZulu-Natal has been led by black leaders for almost 30 years but black people have hardly benefitted economically. The stats and other indications show that, so far, Pappas has been doing very well as the mayor of uMngeni Municipality.

“The only way the DA can get into power in KZN is through working with the IFP to push the ANC out of power. It would be interesting how the partnership or electoral pact between the IFP and the DA will pan out going into the elections and after those elections,” Dube said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Viva DA! Viva Pappas! Let the IFP and DA take KZN from the ANC and let the EFF get flushed!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    The power of communication can not be underestimated, and is without doubt a major contributor to the success of Chris Pappas. Conversely, the lack thereof is I believe the single biggest barrier to healing our beautiful country.

    Anyone in politics in this country should be focused on ensuring they speak an indigenous language.

    Corporate South Africa: you should literally be throwing money at the DM to translate all of their articles into either Zulu or Xhosa, or both. Your best interests are very much aligned with the best interests of South Africa, and everyone in it.

    • Matthew Quinton says:

      I speaking an indigenous language fluently. It’s called Afrikaans and the best part about it is that besides being truly home grown, it’s helpful in other parts of the world. It’s also helped me learn German and allows me to understand Dutch.

      The problem with the many tribal languages is that their speakers seem to put their tribe(s) before SA, unlike the people who speak Afrikaans who are Saffers before anything else.

      • Malcolm Mitchell says:

        I saw somewhere that Afrikaans is the most widely spoken language in South Africa!! Only supporting facts – my home language is not Afrikaans.

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        Why is it that people insist on being self-destructive in their narrative.

        To these people – of all races and cultures – I can only say: You do nothing for your country and consequently you do nothing for yourself or your family. Open your mind and contribute towards a constructive outcome for all – it is the only way.

        (and communication is a key part of this)

    • Gareth Searle says:

      I agree. never thought of that. translate all the DM articles to both Zulu and Xhosa.
      do it now! Capitec are you listening

    • Cheryl Siewierski says:

      Completely agree Ricky Rocker! isiZulu and isiXhosa translations would be an amazing win for citizens and democracy (not to mention readership figures for DM).

      As for those bragging about speaking Afrikaans as their indigenous language, please just entertain the idea that the language forced upon everyone at school is perhaps not the solution. You can be proud of it it you want to, but given its connotations, it is unlikely to help persuade others. We need to acknowledge that we pay lip service to the majority of our official languages, and learn to embrace greater parts of the country’s people and the treasures that come with them. Ricky’s idea would be an excellent start! A Babble+ or DuoLingo rush on other local languages would be another great step.

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    Also he has the most epic facial hair ever!

  • Robert Dempster Dempster says:

    I started voting in 1967. I won for the first time in 2021 when I voted in Howick. I joined the queue at 6 PM when it was 200 m long. I left at 9 PM when it was 100 m long. That queue represented lots of hard work, and what it achieved, needs to be consolidated!

  • Notinmyname Fang says:

    Pappas is THE MAN✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾

  • Mayibuye Magwaza says:

    Pappas is clearly the best DA candidate for KZN. However, we mustn’t fixate on individuals and ignore wider dynamics. I think important questions remain around the efficacy of the DA electoral machine in the province. The success (or lack thereof) of the IFP in eroding ANC support will also be a major factor, as the article notes.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      @magwazam I agree, but the only thing most readers can do is vote. So what we all really need to do is look with non-racial, thinking eyes at the evidence staring us in the face and ask ourselves this question: “Moving forward, which party is the most likely to improve our country the most, for ALL of our people?”

      And then vote accordingly.

  • Matthew Hall says:

    I am hopeful about the upcoming national and provincial election cycle, but I must remind everyone of this: the ANC was never a political party, it was and is a revolutionary organization.

    If the best case scenario is that they are soundly defeated next year, where does that leave them? My guess is that they begin fomenting a new revolution. These guys will not take defeat gracefully, they will take it badly, responding with violence and sabotage at all levels.

    Mark. My. Words.

  • Joe Irwin says:

    There’s no chance that the ANC will accept defeat in national and provincial elections. Violence and sabotage is already out of control, if they lose it will increase 10 fold.

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