Former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon said that the devastation following last week’s KwaZulu-Natal storm and violent protests in the Durban city centre on Tuesday were an indication that eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede had failed metro residents.
“Clearly mayor Gumede has failed spectacularly in [delivering services], but she has not failed to enrich her friends,” said Durban-born and schooled Leon.
He was speaking to African News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday evening after campaigning for the DA in the northern suburbs.
“Sadly, the recent flood — a very severe example — exposed what is wrong in the municipality … there is a complete lack of preparation and maintenance and a completely dysfunctional city administration.”
eThekwini was hit by a severe storm last week that left 64 people dead, most of them killed by mudslides and flooding after heavy rainfall. Several houses collapsed, leaving families, including children and toddlers, trapped inside, their bodies having to be removed by rescue services.
Other parts of the province were also affected, but the metro felt the brunt of the devastation.
On Tuesday morning, while a council meeting was supposed to be taking place at city hall, Durban came to a standstill as angry municipal workers took to the streets, demanding that their salaries be pegged up several levels.
The workers blockaded several roads with municipal trucks and overturned rubbish in the streets before gathering at city hall.
By late afternoon, the workers had set the litter alight. Police were still monitoring the situation by nightfall but had earlier responded with teargas and rubber bullets.
According to the workers, Gumede had employed former uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans in their unit at pay grades vastly higher than the rest of the rank and file staff, without any consultation.
Following the devastation from the storm, said Leon, unions were now threatening to cut off the area’s water supply.
“You have out-of-control unions. All this says is that the labour laws in this country are ridiculous. Tomorrow is Workers’ Day. What are you going to celebrate? That nearly 10 million South Africans are out of work?” Leon said.
“You have to make some tough choices, and the running of eThekwini is best addressed to the national government. Are you at any point going to say to Cosatu and your other unions, ‘enough is enough; you’ve got some interest, but the national interest is bigger?’”
Leon said that while he had “admiration” for President Cyril Ramaphosa in “other aspects”, he found the president was not prepared to make “tough calls”.
“That’s why I am campaigning for the DA. I believe they are the only party with a pro-reform agenda.”
– African News Agency (ANA)