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DA councillor Nicole Graham, eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda in spat

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. File Picture: Gcina Ndwalane

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. File Picture: Gcina Ndwalane

Published Sep 22, 2021


DURBAN - THERE was a heated exchange of words between eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and DA councillor Nicole Graham during an Exco meeting yesterday over the violence that occurred in Phoenix amid the unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal in July.

Several suspects have been charged with murder and other crimes in connection with the violence there.

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DA members yesterday called for the violence to be seen at this stage as a criminal matter, and not as racially charged.

Kaunda took issue with this and so heated was the exchange between Kaunda and the DA members that they left the virtual Exco meeting before it was complete.

Several people died and cars were damaged in the violence in Phoenix in which black people were racially profiled and accused of being looters.

It is alleged that they were shot at or attacked with other weapons and their vehicles burnt.

The discussion on the matter had initially been about the assistance that the city was providing to bury the victims of the violence.

About 20 to 25 people received support from the city to bury their loved ones.

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But the discussion turned heated after DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa called for the attacks to be classified as a criminal matter at this stage.

Kaunda took issue with that classification, saying what had happened was racially motivated as black people who were not part of the riots had been killed in the area.

“We cannot run away from the fact that what happened there was racially motivated… black people were killed there,” he said.

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He said the city differentiated between the Indian community that stood up against the violence, and those who used the opportunity to attack black people.

He said that shortly after the killings, he and fellow councillors had visited the area and were told by Indian people about the attacks on black people.

He accused the DA of refusing to see the attacks for what they were as it wanted to placate its constituency members in the area. He also accused the party of campaigning with the “blood of innocent people”.

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That remark sparked a furious response from Graham, who found it to be highly offensive and demanded that it should be withdrawn.

It sparked a war of words between the two, with Kaunda eventually telling Graham to “shut up”.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi had to step in during the virtual meeting to calm the tensions.

Graham later told The Mercury that despite the ANC’s claims “that they are trying to calm racial tensions in Phoenix, the Exco meeting goes to show that exactly the opposite is true”.

“The claim by the mayor that the DA is campaigning with the ‘blood of innocent people’ is further testament to this.

“At no point did the DA defend violence or speak against offering support to families who lost innocent loved ones,” she said.