Phoenix activist takes on Durban's politically connected in November polls - The Mail & Guardian

Independent candidates look set to play a greater role in the metro municipality after 1 November

2021-10-24 09:30:00 PM

Phoenix activist takes on Durban’s politically connected in November polls - Independent candidates look set to play a greater role in the metro municipality after 1 November

Independent candidates look set to play a greater role in the metro municipality after 1 November

and Slindile Duma of ActionSA.Govender, the chairperson of the Phoenix Residents and Ratepayers Association, is number one on the Forum 4 Service Delivery’s Durban proportional representation list“We decided we couldn’t be spectators in this any more. We have done a lot of work in the Phoenix area, holding council and tenderpreneurs to account and trying to end their culture of impunity,” Govender said this week. “We decided that it was time now to contest council seats because in this community, ordinary people don’t have leaders who have the community’s interests at heart.”

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Govender said he and other activists had chosen to align themselves with the Forum 4 Service Delivery because of its stance on social justice and the fact that doing so gave them a better chance of making a difference at council level as organised independents.

“This is an attempt to fight to clean up the system from within. We need to have an effective voice within the council to make sure projects are placed under the proper scrutiny and to ensure that the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act]and MFMA [Municipal Finance Management Act] are followed,” Govender said.

Govender says he will use his council seat — if he is successful — to continue with this kind of work. “We are going to continue to use the court to hold developers to account. Unlike the current opposition, who only react after it is too late, we will red-flag projects and use the courts to make sure that the abuse of the system by the political elite is stopped,” Govender said.

He has poured all of his savings into the campaign, with members raising funds at neighbourhood level. The candidates, he said, have all signed an agreement that half of their council salaries would be funnelled into projects aimed at empowering young people.

He believes that despite the low number of successful independents in 2016 — only four won council seats — the Forum 4 Service Delivery candidates have a real chance of success.“We are all people who have a history of community activism. People are also tired of the parties making promises to them that they do not deliver on. We are up against well-resourced parties, but I don’t believe that there has ever been a better opportunity for independents that we have now.”

ANCZandile Gumedeand her supporters after her election as eThekwini chairperson, led to a number of them standing as independents.But the ANC, which holds 216 of the metro’s 219 seats, appears to have managed the fallout from tensions over the candidate selection process a little better this time around.

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Thabani Nyawose, who heads the ANC’s proportional representation list for the city and is the most likely person to emerge as mayor after 1 November, said this week that they were happy with how dissatisfaction over candidate choices had been contained.

The party’s largest and most influential region, eThekwini is also among its most divided, with supporters of Gumede and former presidentJacob Zumainitially challenging more than 50% of the candidate choices.The so-called radical economic transformation grouping in the city has also lodged a dispute over the selection of Nyawose over RET faction leader Nkonsenza Shezi as de facto ANC mayoral candidate.

The riots and looting in July had also created fears in the ANC that Zuma’s supporters would not campaign for the party or might back other parties or independents in the metro, which the governing party cannot afford to lose.The ANC took 56.3% in eThekwini in 2016, but this share of the vote across the metro in the national and provincial elections in 2019 dropped to 53%.

“We are confident in the system we have used in selecting candidates with the involvement of the community.  We hoped that this strategy would assist us in minimising the emergence of independents from within,” Nyawose said.“I believe we have managed as the number is minimal and won’t have any impact on us, unlike in previous elections.”

Thus far, only 25 disputes remain.These would be dealt with immediately after elections and candidates who “are not meant to be on the list” would be removed and by elections would be held to replace them.Nyawose said the ANC national and provincial leadership had “managed” the anger on the part of Zuma’s supporters “internally” and had managed to keep them on board with the party’s election programme.

“Although this was the region that was most affected [by the riots], those who were angry and were calling for Jacob Zuma to be released are now part of the campaign and are working alongside us,” Nyawose said.Although the ANC had “managed” these tensions, it was still “gravely concerned” about the killings that had marred the campaign in eThekwini.

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In August, three women were gunned down in a drive-by shooting at Inanda while attending a meeting to confirm the name of the ANC ward candidate.  Last Friday, ANC candidate Siyabonga Mkhize and another man were shot dead and two others wounded while door-to-door campaigning in Cato Crest in ward 101.

“We are very concerned about the safety of our members and of our candidates and ANC leaders at branch level. We are hopeful that the police will find the killers and not only the killers but those who are responsible for planning this.” Nyawose believes the ANC can improve on its existing 74 ward and 52 proportional representation seats on the 219-seat council, and has identified 62 such seats as a “comfortable” target.

Inkatha Freedom PartyFor the IFP, the local government poll in eThekwini provides the party with an opportunity to build on its electoral gains in 2019, when it replaced the DA as the official opposition in KwaZulu-Natal.At present, the IFP holds only two wards and eight proportional representation seats, having taken only 4.2% of the vote in the city in 2016, but the party believes it can make gains at the expense of the ANC and the DA.

For the first time, it is contesting all 111 wards in the city, a move it believes will not only increase its number of ward and proportional representation seats, but will also increase its “influence”’.Like all the other major parties, including the ANC, EFF and DA, the IFP has not named a mayoral candidate for eThekwini and will only do so after the votes are counted, although in each case the candidate topping the proportional representation list is the most likely to take that role.

Elections headNarend Singhsaid although the party has high ambitions for Durban, it is also being realistic about what it is setting out to do.“We want to do better in eThekwini. We have no illusions about becoming the majority party in the city, but we do want to have more influence in the running of the city, and to leverage that influence,” Singh said.

The party aims to double its proportional representation and ward vote in eThekwini and hopes that it will pick up pockets of support in suburban wards where it has never fielded candidates before.Singh believes the fallout over the DA’s Phoenix poster campaign — “ The ANC called you racists” and “The DA calls you heroes” — and the failure of ANC leaders in the province  to intervene and take a stand against the looting in July will both translate into votes for the IFP.

Mdu Nkosi, the IFP’s representative on the eThekwini executive committee, said the IFP’s eThekwini manifesto, which targeted issues such as Durban’s billing system, keeping the streets clean and dealing with street crime had been developed around issues that residents wanted to be addressed.

Economic Freedom FightersEconomic Freedom Fightersare contesting all 111 wards in the metro with a view to building their proportional representation vote in eThekwini, where the party has eight such seats, having taken 3.4% of the vote in 2016.The EFF is yet to win a ward in eThekwini, but its regional command team chairperson, Thabani Mvubu, is convinced that the party will have a greater effect this time around.

“Our aim is to take over the eThekwini municipality, That’s the first prize — it would be cowardice to say we are waiting to be an opposition party come 1 November,” Mvumu said.The EFF has focused thus far on the major townships to the north, south and west of the city and in the central business district and the suburban wards housing the bulk of the city’s student population, where mass registration of EFF student command members took place during the final voter registration weekend.

Mvubu said the city centre wards, Umlazi and Mpumalanga township — where the EFF took 20% of the vote in the by-election in ward 6 in April — were areas that had shown strong growth for the party.He said EFF leader Julius Malema would end his campaign rallies with an address in Durban on 28 October, which he believed would boost party volunteers who had been going door to door daily. 

“We have grown very well here and surprised everyone in 2019. We took 120 000 votes in the metro, so we are not working from a zero base here. It is our responsibility to make sure that we protect those gains we made in 2019,” Mvubu said.The EFF had not yet taken any hard and fast decisions regarding coalitions in the city.

“If the metro is going to be hung, we are clear on what our demands are (for working with another party): a land audit to establish who are the owners of land; insourcing of cleaners and security guards and so on; whoever it is that will take on and implement those is a person we can work with,” Mvubu said.

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