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My ward flips to the ANC after DA councillor blows R250-million on who knows what


Ferial Haffajee is Daily Maverick Associate Editor. In her long and storied career, she has been editor-in-chief of both City Press and Mail & Guardian.

It’s an about-turn to how the rest of the Johannesburg election result is shaping.

Joburg Ricky Nair

Ricky Kishore Nair has been fielded by the ANC as a resident with genuine roots in Johannesburg’s Ward 58. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

In 2011, the DA won Ward 58, one of Johannesburg’s oldest and most diverse wards. It was a marker of the party’s growth in former ANC strongholds.

The ward, which includes the heritage areas of Fordsburg, Fietas, Mayfair and Langlaagte, had been a centre of resistance to colonialism and apartheid. It had always been an ANC area as it had been home to the country’s leading activists.  

But poor governance and neglect saw it lost. After elections on Monday, 1 November, the ANC won the ward back, led by a candidate who has called the ward home for 41 years. Ricky Kishore Nair easily beat the DA candidate Yola Minnaar.  

Whereas the ANC headquarters previously parachuted candidates into the ward, this time the community had a say in which candidate the ANC put forward. Its list of criteria included a history of service, which Nair had. He is selfless and lives simply unlike previous ANC candidates, who saw the ward as an opportunity for rent extraction and to build patronage.  

And Nair won because the DA adopted the same culture and made exactly the same mistakes the ANC had when it lost the ward a decade ago.

It parachuted in candidate Alex Christians who adopted tactics of patronage and extraction.  He did not see to the basic failures in the ward because he never lived in it. Ward 58 is exciting and cosmopolitan but it is in an advanced state of failure as Daily Maverick has reported. Under Christians, the DA did not arrest this failure.

Instead, as Christians revealed to Daily Maverick last week, he focused on getting R250-million funds flowing, allegedly to the ward. But if you ask people who live there, that investment is invisible. The basics like crumbling sub-district electricity infrastructure, water, garbage collection and by-law enforcement had no investment or councillor attention. 

Vanity projects like over-priced parks, leases of public property to private businesses, a huge community centre — beautiful but a Covid-19 white elephant — and more are the DA’s legacy. This is not only a pattern in Ward 58 but across Johannesburg where the council sees its function as to build shiny new things rather than to care for the infrastructure and systems underpinning functioning government.

This is the path of patronage and rent extraction as councillors responsible for huge construction contracts can build support networks and get back-handers. It’s one of the patterns that has led to the destruction of local government for which incumbent parties are being punished at this election, which has seen the lowest turnout of any post-democratic South Africa. DM  


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  • Merle Favis says:

    Inspired by Ferial’s first article on the ANC candidate for ward 58, I headed to my voting station with the intention of voting ANC for the PR list. If such grassroots driven and committed candidates exist within the ANC, it is worth voting to give such folks a place in the Council. To my disappointment, I discovered that Ricky Nair was not on the PR list at all. Why, I enquired from the ANC people there? Well apparently he did not get the nod from the required number of branches. Interesting. If someone of such qualities could not carry the confidence of and become a role model for fellow ANC branches, that says a great deal as to why we are in the situation we are in.

    • Louw Smit says:

      From your comment, it would appear that Ricky Nair was in fact not actually standing in your Ward 58. So I wonder where Ferial’s story actually comes from? Any clarification please Ferial? Or am I missing something somewhere?

  • Louw Smit says:

    Oops! See my comment below

    • Merle Favis says:

      Perhaps to clarify: Ricky Nair was elected as Ward Councillor (first ballot), as reflected by Ferial. But he was not one of the ANC candidates on their PR list (which is the second ballot)

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    I’m curious to see if Mr. Nair gets the support needed from his party to make a real difference in his community. I absolutely support the notion of people within a ward running the area and wish Mr. Nair and his community all the best. Maybe this will spread further; it would be great to feel connected to my local leaders.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Only people who have been resident for a minimum period of a few years should be allowed to stand – isn’t that what local means?

  • Roger Sheppard says:

    Well written Feral Hafajee – it has been a long wait for you to be able to devote a Whole Page (Eina!) to ‘properly attack’ the DA! How Great Thou Art, How GREAAAAT Thou Art.

    Now, you will always be able to refer to a factually defined episode, instead of the ‘continuing inference’ style of journalism, through an access you have created for yourself as Deputy Editor, in a now-recognised – and most welcome – national press, albeit online. Your colleagues, the truly outstanding DM Thamm and Mertens et al and inter alia, must be in a quandary about your tone and style in your published articles, given the fact that you always try writing so negatively about the ONLY RSA party, whose very first stated principle of policy is ..Non-Racialism.
    It is my understanding that the DA will be reassessing its positions, and this includes that of the member of the party’s “parachute battalion”.
    The observations of M Fervis(MF) below are most pertinent. Indeed, so much so that one wonders why this DM journalist did not explore her(MF’s) point first, as a ‘true journo’.
    Take care Mizzy Hafajee, in these COVID times; keep well.

  • Lee Richardson says:

    Why not ask him?

  • Stephen T says:

    Line 12: citations please.
    Line 15: citations please.
    Line 18: citations please.
    Paragraph 8: citations please.
    Paragraph 9: citations please.

    Does being an associate editor absolve you of the requirement to provide evidence of your claims? Apparently so. That which can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

    I’m beginning to think Ferial Haffajee isn’t really a journalist, or at least doesn’t know what journalism is. More like a propagandist or a schoolyard bully – throwing mud and seeing what sticks. I shall be ignoring her articles from now on.

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