DURBAN - ETHEKWINI Municipality’s new deputy mayor Philani Mavundla has promised to remain accessible and transparent, as he believes that aloof leadership has no place in public office.
Speaking to The Mercury a day after being elected as second-in-command in the province’s biggest municipality, the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC) leader also lifted the veil around the developments over the past days that culminated in him becoming the city’s deputy mayor on Wednesday.
Mavundla was once the ANC chairperson in the Inkosi Bhambatha region which, aside from Greytown, incorporates areas including Nkandla, the homestead of former president Jacob Zuma.
When he was the regional chairperson he openly expressed his support for the former president and even after leaving the ruling party, the property tycoon is known to have been in constant contact with Zuma.
While it has been speculated that it was Zuma who convinced Mavundla to throw his weight behind the ANC, enabling the ruling party to retain eThekwini, the deputy mayor denied this.
“The answer is no, there was no communication between the former president and myself. I have seen newspapers saying this, but it is not true,” said Mavundla.
He confirmed, though, that he had been in contact and had discussions that continued into the night with senior ANC leadership at both provincial and national levels, but would not divulge their names. Those discussions with the leadership, Mavundla added, convinced him to eventually switch his vote to the ruling party, which coupled with the support of other smaller parties, resulted in the ANC’s Mxolisi Kaunda emerging as the mayor, beating the DA’s councillor Nicole Graham by a narrow margin.
“The fact of the matter is that we have been locked in negotiations for days now with the ANC, IFP, and other parties in a bid to find common ground and ensure that eThekwini has a functional and accountable council. It took a lot of effort but we think a correct decision has emerged from the process,” Mavundla said.
He added that ABC placed land reform at the centre of its policies, but stressed that this should be done within the confines of the law.
With the ANC also featuring the issue of land in the Freedom Charter, the deputy mayor added, it had been easier to find common ground with the ANC compared to other parties when there was a deadlock.
“The prospect that KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest municipality would fall into the hands of a party that is dominated by whites (DA) was just unimaginable, and that is why we ended up voting with the ANC and keeping the province’s economic hub in the hands of Africans, even though we did not get everything that we wanted,” said Mavundla.
Initially, as part of the demands, ABC had wanted control of Umvoti Municipality in exchange for its support for the ANC, but eventually settled for the deputy mayor position.
Although only in office for a few hours, he said a number of priorities needed to be addressed, which included:
Water supply in many parts of the city and townships.
Refuse collection and overall waste management.
Fixing of potholes in different parts of the city and ensuring that infrastructure is regularly maintained
Ensuring greater co-operation between the city and local business operators, especially small businesses.
Mavundla said it was important for the municipality to make it easy for small businesses to grow, and part of helping with this growth was by paying on time.
“I have been in business for many years and I know the frustration when a service provider needs to be paid for the work, and this is not done swiftly. The impact that this may have in the life of a business is not a pleasant one. If we are serious about growing small businesses we must pay them on time, because failing to do so will have a negative bearing for the city’s economy,” said Mavundla.
He also sought to assure residents that he would be intolerant to any form of corruption.
“I don’t have time for corruption, as a businessman I believe in doing things that are above board. I will not allow anyone to pull the wool over my eyes,” the deputy mayor insisted.
He admitted that the city faced massive problems in regaining the public trust, because of bad publicity over corruption allegedly taking place in the municipality and service delivery failures.
He said while he was an individual with strong beliefs, he also knew the importance of working as a collective.
The emergence of groupings, including business forums, that are demanding work contracts in the city also demonstrated the need to engage with all interested parties to ensure that economic activity is not interrupted and that the city functions without problems.
Mavundla rose to prominence as the flamboyant mayor of the little known Umvoti Municipality in Greytown. He declined the mayor’s salary when assuming office in 2011, saying the money should be channelled to community projects.