ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS
Timing of allegations against Mayor Chris Pappas suggests ANC is panicking in KZN
The ANC is planning to march in Howick on Thursday against uMngeni Municipality Mayor Chris Pappas, the DA’s candidate for KwaZulu-Natal premier. The ANC says Pappas should be removed as a result of alleged abuse of office. The DA says the ruling party is simply playing politics ahead of the 2024 elections.
Ever since uMngeni Municipality Mayor Chris Pappas was announced as the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) candidate for Kwazulu-Natal premier, the ANC has been scrambling to discredit him.
Pappas (32) has been mayor of the small Midlands municipality of uMngeni since November 2021. He speaks isiZulu fluently and his supporters say he has been able to turn things around in the municipality, which they say suffered years of ANC incompetence, mismanagement and corruption.
The DA hopes that Pappas can use the narrative of clean governance in uMngeni and his understanding of the isiZulu language and culture to woo the support of fed-up voters.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Chris Pappas: The KZN mayor who threatens the ANC
Just minutes after the DA announced Pappas as their candidate for the province’s premiership, an anonymous post on social media accused him of channelling money to an entity in which his former partner was involved.
While some are questioning the veracity and timing of the allegations, the ANC, which has long regarded Pappas and his administration in uMngeni as sworn enemies, has been quick to call for his removal.
The ANC Youth League in the Moses Mabhida (KZN Midlands) Region, is planning to picket in Howick on Thursday and call for Pappas to step down while allegations of corruption against him are investigated.
Sizwe Mchunu, a former DA leader in KZN who is now an ANC MPL in KZN legislature, approached the Public Protector’s office to investigate the allegations against Pappas.
Mchunu alleged that in December 2022, the uMngeni municipality gave R100,000 to the non-profit organisation uMngeni Tourism, which at the time was chaired by Pappas’ fiancé, Jean-Pierre Prinsloo.
This week the Public Protector’s office confirmed receiving the complaint and that it would investigate.
Pappas has dismissed the allegations, saying they are the work of his political enemies in the ANC, who want to distract him from his job as mayor and as premier candidate.
DA leader John Steenhuisen came out in support of Pappas, saying the allegations levelled against him were “spurious” and were made by a desperate ruling party fearing a loss at the polls.
“[Pappas] is a young man who is delivering for the people of that municipality. For more than 20 years the ANC governed uMngeni Municipality, and during that time there were long periods of poor service delivery.
“Now here is a young white man who is delivering to the black majority and the ANC has nightmares… they are using a narrative that divides people according to race,” Steenhuisen said.
But the ANC is having none of it, accusing Pappas and the DA of being racists who are using black people to get into power.
Mafika Mndebele, KZN ANC spokesman, said: “The reaction of the DA to the public outrage following allegations of corruption levelled against its councillor and mayor of uMngeni Local Municipality, Chris Pappas, has revealed few things.
“First, it has reminded us of the apartheid era in which the public service was an appendage to an illegitimate government which was not accountable to anyone except to a small minority. As we all know, under the apartheid government, the majority of people were treated as passive recipients who had to accept what they were given.”
Mndebele added: “That its efforts have only achieved to deepen the racial divide in our society, does not seem to bother the DA. If it cannot get power by fair means, then it will attain this objective even by fronting with a racist leader who speaks Zulu.
“In the run-up to the 2024 general elections, the DA’s racist fight-back campaign of two decades ago has again been unleashed on our people. In this campaign, the purported motivation for the DA is to keep ANC wolves at bay.”
Initially, the ANC Youth League planned the shutdown for Monday, but Pappas and the uMngeni Municipality went to court and were granted an interdict. Their application to picket in Howick on Thursday was granted.
“As the ANCYL we are not a private investigation unit and we rely on our law enforcement agencies and Chapter 9 institutions to conduct investigations. We believe that Pappas must step down until all the allegations levelled against him have been investigated,” said Mqondisi Duma, provincial spokesperson for the ANCYL.
‘He is doing well’
Residents of Howick and surrounding areas have differing views on this war of words raging between the ANC and the DA. Some describe it as mere politicking while others say Pappas must be investigated.
Sthembiso Cele (28) from Howick said things had changed since Pappas was elected mayor.
“Even the streets are cleaned now. The projects are going and people are getting jobs. I doubted him at first when he came in. I thought he wouldn’t last in the job, but now I can say for sure that he is doing well. Uyaspana loGqonqa (this white man is working).”
Makhosi Mthembu, an ANC supporter from Mpophomeni, said she would join the march against Pappas.
“To me, he is nothing but a racist who speaks isiZulu well. There is nothing that Pappas has done for us here in Mpophomeni since he took over. We were better off before he came,” she said.
uMngeni Municipality comprises the former Transitional Local Council areas of Howick and Hilton, the World’s View area and a substantial portion of farmland. Covering only 1,567km², it is one of the smallest municipalities in South Africa.
Its council consists of 25 members. Previously, the ANC had won a majority in each of the local elections. Then, in 2021, the DA won a majority with 13 seats.
An ANC elder in the Moses Mabhida region, who spoke on condition of anonymity, blamed his organisation for the loss of uMngeni Municipality to the DA.
“We gave it to them on a platter,” he said, before explaining how infighting and factionalism had split the party into two groups that were fighting each other, even in the council itself.
He also mentioned a shutdown organised by ANC members who were not happy with their own party’s mayor. This led to the burning down of factories and other facilities.
“You could see things they were doing in the municipality, stealing money, hiring their family members and girlfriends. It was a mess. People got fed up and they voted for the DA.
“I wish for the ANC to lose power in the province and nationally so that these parasites, who are only interested in tenders and enriching themselves, can leave our organisations.
“The biggest joke and embarrassment came when the ANC members staged a shutdown against a sitting ANC mayor,” he said.
Zakhele Ndlovu, a political lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the attention the ANC was giving to Pappas indicated that the party was running scared.
In the 2021 local government elections, the ANC won only 41% of the vote in the province.
“There is this perception that Pappas is turning things around and delivering services in uMngeni Municipality. It seems that the ruling party is panicking.
“The timing of the allegations against Pappas is quite curious… Why did they wait until he was announced as the premier candidate? It is also interesting that the ANC is now using the struggle and race cards to fight him.
“That struggle card doesn’t work any more because people want services, they want jobs, they want houses, clean roads, water and electricity. People don’t care what happened during the struggle.
“They have been promised a better life, but what has happened in the last few years does not inspire confidence and they are looking at alternatives,” Ndlovu said. DM