eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda won’t retract pro-Zuma post
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DURBAN - ETHEKWINI mayor Mxolisi Kaunda yesterday stood his ground and rejected a call for him to retract “inflammatory” sentiments he made in support of former president Jacob Zuma.
The DA argued the comments could have incited the recent spate of violence, which initially began as a protest against Zuma’s 15-month imprisonment before it escalated into a full-scale rampage of looting and destruction.
Addressing the special executive committee, DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said: “It is my honest opinion that Mr Mayor you owe this city an apology because while it was clear that the political movement associated with… Zuma was causing turmoil, a number of senior political leaders, including yourself, still publicly associated themselves with (Zuma support), and it was very difficult to say you don’t support violence when you support the call for freedom for the former president when violence had already started.”
“I think that it has created frustration within the city that the people who are tasked with leading would be found making reckless remarks. It took a number of days to condemn the looting and I think that if we are going to move forward (and foster) social cohesion, the people who are responsible for these (reckless remarks) need to be held accountable. The situation went out of control and there were a lot of criminal elements, but the root of this was political and unfortunately you were a key part of that,” said Graham.
In reaction, Kaunda flatly refused to retract his pro-Zuma comments, saying, just like a number of people who had taken part in the 2017 “#ZumaMustFall” campaign, he too had a civic right to make a stand in support of the former president.
In his personal Facebook page, Kaunda posted “We are Msholozi, Msholozi is us. #Free Zuma”.
“I support the release of Msholozi (Zuma’s clan name), like some of you took part in the (sic) ZumaMustFall campaign against him when throngs of people marched along the beachfront in that protest,” Kaunda said.
“So I am on the other side, because I have not declared that president Zuma is a criminal. Some of us here have committed that mistake (sic) and they think that the Constitution must only work when you want it to work but when you feel that you must abuse it, you want to abuse it. Zuma is not a criminal. He has not been found by any court of law to be a criminal,” he said.
“So when we see injustices meted out against him, we have a duty to call for the Constitution to protect him. He is a citizen like all of us here. Some of you have judged him to be corrupt. Even the (Deputy Chief Justice Raymond) Zondo Commission (into alleged state capture) is still concluding its work. The commission has not pronounced that Zuma is corrupt. Maybe you feel there is something wrong about saying the Constitution of this country must treat everyone equally.
“I fought for this country, that there must be economic freedom for everyone and there must be liberation for everyone. I am still fighting. Because I don’t see the former president as guilty of anything since no court of law has found him as such, don’t then try to mobilise me to join you. Because I won’t. I am not starting now to support Zuma, I have been in court when he appears long before this. So there is no apology. If I am inciting violence, then I must also be arrested like the other five who have been arrested on allegations of inciting violence,” said Kaunda, who explained that the reason for him to go public was to protect his character after the DA had gone public, accusing him of making inflammatory remarks in that regard.
IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi said: “Maybe there may have been some people who felt that they should join the protest campaign in support for the call against Zuma’s imprisonment after hearing your worship Mr Mayor making that call. But what is important is to respond swiftly when these riots begin, to be seen out there with the people, including bringing the media on board.”
On concerns about the slow public response by leaders, Kaunda revealed that at the time the riots broke out, he had contracted Covid-19 and was in a 10-day quarantine at home - a second infection for the mayor after he was previously diagnosed with the disease late last year.