Kaunda’s posting to NCOP came as a shock

Mxolisi Kaunda has been removed as mayor of eThekwini, with mixed views on his performance.

Mxolisi Kaunda has been removed as mayor of eThekwini, with mixed views on his performance.

Published Jun 16, 2024


Durban — The redeployment of ousted eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) came as a shock to ANC alliance partners who were kept in the dark until the news broke on Wednesday.

Sources within the ANC and its alliance partners said Kaunda was “pushed out” because the party was no longer happy to have him leading the country’s second-biggest economic hub.

The ANC provincial leadership announced Kaunda’s removal from the City a day later, which became effective on Friday. He was due to be sworn in on the same day in Cape Town as a member of the NCOP.

An ANC insider in the province said the relationship between Kaunda and the provincial structure was sour for a while and deteriorated in the build-up to the May 29 general elections.

“He was often not a part of the elections campaigning and was often reported as being ill. There were also suspicions that he had warmed up to the MK Party on the side,” said the source.

Provincial spokesperson Mafika Mndebele declined to comment, saying “the ANC does not respond to gossip”.

Kaunda bid farewell at a media conference on Thursday and said he was accepting of his redeployment.

“I take it with warm hands as I took the deployment of being the MEC for transport (and) even when I was requested to come to the City, I did the same,” he said.

Kaunda was appointed as mayor in August 2019, with Belinda Scott as his deputy and Weziwe Thusi as speaker, to rescue the province’s economic hub from collapsing after Zandile Gumede was fired as mayor.

The then-premier Sihle Zikalala redeployed him from his provincial cabinet position as the Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC between 2016 and 2019.

However, the insider said the current provincial structure, headed by Siboniso Duma and secretary Bheki Mtolo, viewed Kaunda as a weak mayor in terms of service delivery.

“He was informed about this redeployment on Sunday (June 10),” said the source.

Another insider within the alliance confirmed that Kaunda had been seen as too “lazy to campaign” for the ANC.

“His relationship with the provincial leadership was not good, mainly because he was seen as a Zikalala ally. He was also very aligned with (Jacob) Zuma. I heard he did not actively campaign, nor did I see him,” the source said.

Shortly after the July 2021 riots, which were supposedly in reaction to Zuma’s incarceration at the time, Kaunda posted on his Facebook page: “We are Msholozi, Msholozi is us. #Free Zuma.”

The informant added: “His service delivery was dismal; that is why President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a presidential task team (Presidential eThekwini Working Group).”

The working group was announced during Ramaphosa’s visit to the city, accompanied by some key ministers, in February in response to growing concern about poor water supply, infrastructure maintenance, responses to the 2022 flood damage, rocketing crime, the decline in tourism to the city, and port efficiency concerns.

The source, a senior SACP leader, said the decision to remove Kaunda from the City was clandestine, and the alliance partners only learnt about it through the media.

“We were shocked to hear about it in the news. We contemplated asking them (the PEC) but realised it won’t help because dealing with them is a waste of time,” he said.

Another source said the ANC leadership had recently put Kaunda through a performance assessment, which he failed as a result of his alleged poor handling of March’s month-long illegal salary strike by South African Municipal Workers Union members. It resulted in the halting of service delivery and damage to property.

“The leadership was not happy with the way he handled the bargaining negotiations ahead of the elections. The ANC’s national leadership had to intervene,” said the source.

In a press statement, the ANC’s provincial leadership said Kaunda’s experience was needed in the NCOP and commended him for “serving the people of eThekwini with dedication”.

“We appreciate him for his dedication during the most difficult periods such as the ravaging floods, the outbreak of Covid-19 and many other challenges,” read the statement.

The party said it would announce “as a matter of urgency”, after consultation with relevant structures, Kaunda’s replacement. It has been speculated in party circles that ANC NEC member Cyril Xaba could be selected.

About why the alliance partners were not consulted about Kaunda’s redeployment, Mndebele said: “We will meet the alliance.”

During the press conference, Kaunda recalled his successes as mayor.

“Working with the Department of Water Affairs and Umgeni-uThukela Water, we are constructing the Upper Umkhomazi Dam for R28 billion which will provide a long-term solution to water challenges in the city.

“To build an energy-secured city, eThekwini was the first metro in the country to be allowed by the National Treasury and the Department of Minerals and Energy to procure new generation capacity from independent power producers.

“Currently, several renewable infrastructure projects have been prepared to ensure that new generation capacity of 400MW from IPPs is procured, with 100MW being allocated to Solar PV and 300MW for gas to power by 2026,” he said.

About speculation on why he was removed, Kaunda said: “I am very happy and I did not need reasons. If there is someone very happy in the world, it is me. When I get deployed, I never ask the reasons.”

Sunday Tribune