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Cutting Zuma loose would clear the decks for the eThekwini and KZN ANC to move forward

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Dr Imraan Buccus is senior research associate at ASRI.

Both factions vying for leadership of the eThekwini region, those aligned to the notorious Zandile Gumede and those aligned to Thabani Nyawose, claim to have majority support on their side.

I’d written previously that there were too many dark clouds bouncing around Gumede for her to have a great chance of success. But even with the fiasco about the step-aside rule, she may well be setting out to prove the point that she does indeed enjoy majority support in the region.

Meanwhile, the chaos and uncertainty continue. eThekwini Deputy Mayor Philani Mavundla presides over a powerful parallel administration in Durban. Breaking with the penchant of tycoons to buy soccer teams, he funded his own political party, the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC), after falling out with the ANC.

It was the ANC that came knocking at Mavundla’s mansion when it needed his minority vote to hold on to the metro after the battering in the 2021 local government elections. Word is that one Jacob Zuma picked up the phone to do the pleading.

The two have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. Mavundla was self-assured that he held all the cards and played his hand ruthlessly.  

His bounty included the human settlements and infrastructure portfolio. In the four months since, Mavundla has assigned the nominal mayor Mxolisi Kaunda to cut amapiano singles.

It boggles the brain cells that the ANC would twice assign the featherweight Kaunda to lead the only metro in which it has influence. Kaunda left the provincial department of transport in a shambolic state before being deployed to city hall.

In the July 2021 looting, he was completely absent from his post, only popping his head above the parapet to trumpet his support for Zuma on social media. Strange, then, that civil society groups like the Active Citizens Coalition, which actively defended the city from the looters, were enticed into helping the ANC hold on to the metro.

With the past week’s debacle over the appointment of a city manager, Kaunda has again demonstrated that he has no handle on either the city administration or party instructions. To use a popular ANC phrase, the centre is not holding. The ANC’s woes in eThekwini Municipality are ladled on top of the polarised regional conferences. The mantle of provincial leadership sits heavily on the shoulders of ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala.

He has demonstrated an uncanny skill for pulling the strands together at the eleventh hour. No one else in the province has his strategic ability or iron fist in a velvet glove. The one bogey he has struggled to overcome is the Zuma factor. Were he to cut Zuma loose, it would clear the decks for the ANC to move forward into a new era of good governance. Ambivalence over Zuma is alienating the ANC, not just within its own ranks but also from business and civil society.  

Ambivalence also emboldens apparent wild cards like former mayor Zandile Gumede to spout divisive positions that multiply fissures in the ANC. Tossing out the Zuma bogey will bring back ANC support left by the wayside over the past decade and enable Zikalala to rebuild. An ANC that returns to the values of the Mandelas, Sisulus and Tambos will have no need for the minority votes of the Mavundlas. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Spar, Checkers, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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