'Kill to be a councillor'

21 September 2017 - 06:46 By Matthew Savides
EXPLOSIVE TESTIMONY: Former KZN premier Senzo Mchunu gives evidence at the Moerane Commission Picture: Jackie Clausen
EXPLOSIVE TESTIMONY: Former KZN premier Senzo Mchunu gives evidence at the Moerane Commission Picture: Jackie Clausen

Councillors' proximity to tenders, and power, prestige and pay cheques, are promoting political violence in KwaZulu-Natal - and the ANC is at the heart of it.

This was the thrust of explosive testimony by former ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairman and premier Senzo Mchunu at the Moerane Commission in Durban on Wednesday.

Mchunu, who was ousted as chairman in the now-nullified 2015 provincial elective conference - and who was removed as premier in May the following year - said the ANC "must take responsibility" for political violence in the province, saying it was councillors and local officials being targeted, particularly since 2011.

Mchunu said councillor positions were highly coveted because they were "easily accessible paid public positions for people".

"You don't have to have any academic qualifications, you don't have to have whatever money. Because of this, it is gradually becoming highly competitive. It is no exaggeration to say that you can find up to 10 people fighting to become a councillor in a ward, or wanting to become PR [proportional representation] councillors in the same area. Competition is very high, and it promises double growth - one in terms of social status . and it also pays, financially," he said.

It also created an environment where the councillors and backers could access tenders.

"It creates proximity to tenders, or proximity to power-broking positions within the political power ladder. This in turn brings the honour to offer employment or other favours.

"When you become a councillor you are in close proximity for awarding tenders, either formally or informally, directly or indirectly.

"It has benefits. Indirectly because, as a councillor, you know what's going to come up in formal council meetings. You know what tender is going to be out, where, for how much . and you, then, informally go to potentially interested parties, get to them and say, 'You know what? There's this tender coming. I thought I should just inform you'," he said.

While historically the violence was "state-sponsored" by the apartheid government and was largely between the IFP and the ANC, Mchunu said ANC-on-ANC violence was more common and meant the party must take the brunt of the blame.

"The ANC must accept responsibility. That's the first thing we need to do. We are responsible, whether directly or indirectly. When we accept this responsibility, as an organisation, we have to act accordingly.

"I don't think we have a choice. Somebody said to me the difference between KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo is that in Limpopo when they resolve problems they use muti. In KwaZulu-Natal you kill directly.

"The real solution, not the instant solution, but the real solution, is for the ANC to accept responsibility and act accordingly.

"For that you need strong, resolute leadership that doesn't depend on this or that faction for survival," he said.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesman Mdumiseni Nkosi did not reply to questions seeking comment on Wednesday.