ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS
Unflinching Chris Pappas rises to top DA candidate in battle for KZN
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