Something is rotten in the state of Durban

Opinion /  / 

eThekwini city manager Sipho Nzuza, suspended mayor Zandile Gumede and now-acting mayor Fawzia Peer. Dennis Pather writes that eThekwini's local political hierarchy is caught in a crippling swamp of internal factionalism and the stench just gets worse by the day. File photo: Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ANA.
I love my city - it’s where my roots are, where my life experiences reside, where my intimate dreams are conceived.

Sadly, though, Durban seems to be in one big unholy mess right now.

Or to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “something is rotten” in the state of Durban.

Our local political hierarchy is caught in a crippling swamp of internal factionalism and the stench just gets worse by the day.

For a start, the city’s mayor Zandile Gumede is out on bail, having been placed on special leave after a raft of fraud and corruption charges relating to a multi-million rand Durban Solid Waste tender.

And while Durban struggles to recover from that shock, the city’s No. 2, Fawzia Peer, gets rushed to a local hospital’s intensive care unit after drinking from what could have been a poisoned chalice of bottled water at an official council meeting.

Whatever next?

Well, there’s more to come. The municipality’s de facto chief executive, city manager Sipho Mzuza and his family get placed under heavy security because of threats to their lives and safety. He’s apparently going to be the main witness against the mayor and her fellow accused.

All this tension and uncertainty at the top has inevitably led to mayhem and chaos on the streets of Durban where violent protests erupted as Gumede’s supporters marched to the City Hall last week, demanding she be returned to office.

And, as would be expected, opposition parties like the DA and IFP are not taking all this chaos lying down. They are demanding Gumede be fired.

Well, as that well known African proverb warns, when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

In the end, it’s the ordinary citizens and long-suffering ratepayers of our city who bear the brunt of all this political factionalism.

Service delivery takes a back seat to the political machinations unfolding at City Hall, and as the anger of the poor mounts, public protests intensify.

When potential tourists read about the chaos and infighting in the city, they think twice about their travel plans here.

Investors start looking at opportunities elsewhere.

When law-abiding ratepayers see more and more land invasions threatening their properties, they become agitated; when they hear their utility bills are based on mere estimates because more than 7000 electricity meters have not been read by the municipality for more than a year, they demand answers.

When a blind eye is turned to their constant complaints of water leakages, sewage seepage and heaps of rubbish left to rot on the streets of uMlazi, they say “enough is enough”.

The murmurs of discontent are growing into howls of disapproval by the day, and there is already talk of a possible rates boycott in which ratepayers pay into a special trust fund rather than into the coffers of a municipality they have little faith in - until their problems are addressed.

Hello, Durban, is there anyone out there listening?

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Sunday Tribune