ANC closes 'opportunism' gap
Johannesburg - Amid concerns that genuine community protests are being hijacked by opportunists who harbour ambitions of being councillors after next year’s local government elections, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal says it has a strategy to counter that possibility.
Speaking on Sunday before the party’s two-day provincial executive committee meeting in Durban, provincial ANC chairperson and premier Sihle Zikalala said they were aware that protests were often hijacked by opportunists.
Zikalala said the ANC had developed a strategy that would ensure that opportunism did not succeed.
The undertaking comes days after the ruling party ordered Alfred Duma (Ladysmith) mayor Vincent Madlala to take sick leave to allow the party to listen to protesters’ concerns.
Critics said shafting mayors every time there was a protest was opening an opportunity for members of the community who wanted to be councillors and mayors in next year’s local government elections to hijack legitimate protests.
“I think that is a serious concern. We are developing that approach (of containing opportunism), and I think we are all cautioned to ensure that we deal with opportunists who try to position themselves,” Zikalala said.
“We will not act against the community. So, we have to balance what the community is saying, but the process does not allow that you just withdraw the mayor.”
Ladysmith is not the first KZN town to experience similar protests to remove mayors.
It started in Mandeni in March last year, when the ANC was forced to recall former mayor Siphesile Zulu, who was accused of corruption..
There was a violent shutdown of Newcastle in January and the mayor, Ntuthuko Mahlaba, said the protests were funded to oust him because he was fighting corruption that benefitted his opponents in the eMalahleni region.
There have been shutdowns in Dumbe, Port Shepstone and Adams Mission, south of Durban.
Political analyst Thabani Khumalo said opportunists would use the protests ahead of the local elections to positions themselves for power.
“Opportunists are definitely going to use the community protests in the run-up to the election year to pave the way for themselves to gain power. The protests are going to spiral as the elections get closer,” Khumalo predicted.
Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said in order for the ANC to avoid opening a gap for opportunists, the party had to always be transparent in removing mayors.
“The removal of a mayor creates a position for someone else. That will certainly put pressure on whether the process is clean or whether the process is some realignment, getting rid of liabilities. Mayors who are no longer politically needed are replaced with those that are politically relevant.
“There would be suspicions,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zikalala will today visit Jozini and Mhlabuyalingana, along to the SA-Mozambique border, to resolve violent community protests that have shut down the towns since last week.
The community wants the government to halt the hijacking and smuggling of vehicles to Mozambique.