Durban - Depending on who you ask, former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede is either a hero or a villain.
Earlier this week, the ANC recalled Gumede and the municipality’s entire executive committee following a damning report detailing the failures of the council.
However, Gumede’s neighbours were concerned that the decision would derail the improvements she had made in the Amaoti area in Inanda.
We visited her neighbourhood on Thursday where unemployed single parents, children and grannies, were queueing for brown bread and bean soup outside a blue container.
Gumede’s supporters argued that the ANC should have given her a chance instead of dismissing her during Women’s month.
Hlengiwe Mthethwa said she had nothing against the ANC, but she felt the decision was brutal and would affect the poverty alleviation project Gumede started. She said Gumede was adored in the community because she was kind and quick to forgive her enemies. “She is living proof that charity begins at home,” said Mthethwa.
Dududuzile Ngcobo, 57, a chronic patient, said she knew Gumede from her school days.
“The soup kitchen was her idea.
“The good deeds she has done for this community should not be eclipsed by minor things. The soup benefits many unemployed residents who are on medication such as ARVs,” Ngcobo said.
However, down the road from Gumede’s home, four men were fetching water from a communal tap. The men said they had to push a wheelbarrow to fetch water, and although they were from the same area, they did not benefit from government projects.
“Those who benefited were close and loyal to Gumede. Others are still living in shacks and mud houses, and have to walk long distances to fetch water. Gumede being a mayor or not has had no bearing on my family. Life is still the same.
“I still walk on the same gravel road, nothing has changed,” said Nqobi Mqadi while loading a 25-litre container onto the wheelbarrow. Mqadi’s friend, Sibusiso Nzama, said the better life promised by politicians when they campaigned for the elections was just an elusive dream for the youth in the area.
“Nobody cares about us. We have to fend for ourselves.
“We are vulnerable, with many getting involved in drugs out of frustration. My peers have left in droves to join whoonga addicts in the city centre,” he said.
A metro police officer from uMlazi welcomed the decision to fire Gumede. He said she had brought instability when she removed administrators who were capable. He said for the past two years there has been a continuous disruption of garbage collection from his area.
“It serves her right after she destroyed many people’s lives,” he said. Nkosentsha Shezi, chairperson of Radical Economic Transformation (RET) Champions said firing Gumede would further destabilise the metro because the awarding of tenders to small businesses would be affected.
“Ours is to see to it that RET is going to be implemented as per a decision taken during the ANC’s conference in Nasrec. But Gumede’s purging is just a mere attempt to thwart and further the goals of the other faction,” said Shezi.