2009 Politics

2009-12-31 00:00

The 2009 political scene was launched with the inauguration of the first black United States President, Barack Obama, on January 20. In his inaugural speech, Obama highlighted the effects of the recession, global warming and the phased removal of American troops in Iraq. Obama stated that the U.S. is a friend to poor countries.

This year’s general elections were labelled by political analysts as one of the most strongly contested elections yet. The lead-up to elections was marred, especially in KZN, by reports of political intolerance and in some areas violence was reported. The campaign to garner votes intensified when charges against Jacob Zuma were dropped by the NPA. Political party leaders took pot shots at one another and ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema, was in his element. Juju — as Malema is affectionately known — took swipes at DA leader Helen Zille, calling her a “racist, colonialist and imperialist” and an “apartheid spy”. Juju also took pot shots at UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, calling him an “apartheid general” and labelled the IFP a “cultural group”. Zille hit back calling Juju an “inkwenkwe”, a derogatory Xhosa term for an uncircumcised boy. The ANC emerged victorious and its leader, Zuma, was elevated to the presidency of South Africa and Cope performed dismally as per expectations.

 

The IFP, which had planned a comeback by taking over the KwaZulu-Natal province from the ANC after the elections, found itself entangled in an internal rift following its dismal showing in the elections. The IFP attained 22,4% of votes in the province and the ANC got 62,9%. Some members of the party’s youth wing, the Youth Brigade, wanted a change in leadership. Effectively these youth members and leaders wanted the party founder and leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, to be replaced by IFP national chairwoman, Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi, and the other Youth Brigade faction wanted the party’s general secretary, Reverend Musa Zondi, to take over the reins. Both leaders distanced themselves from the endorsements of the two youth-wing factions. The party leadership suspended some youth leaders for contravening the party’s constitution. The rifts were intensified by the postponement of the IFP’s elective conference which has been scheduled to take place next year. The two factions calling for leadership change clashed outside the party’s office in Durban in September over who should succeed Buthelezi and police had to use rubber bullets to disperse them. In later meetings held by the party leadership, it emerged that KaMagwaza- Msibi did not want to unseat Buthelezi and would run again in the elective conference to be the party’s chairperson.

 

The country was gripped by reports that politicians were buying expensive cars and fitting them with accessories that cost thousands of rands. The spending sprees on these jalopies was labelled as wasteful given the large number of SA citizens who live below the poverty line. In the province, MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Mike Mabuyakhulu was thrust into the spotlight for being paid more than R383 000 by the provincial government in just four months for using his private vehicle on official business. Mabuyakhulu was paid just over R93 000 in May, R110 000 in June, R9 000 in July and R83 000 in August. Later it was revealed in the KZN legislature that Mabuyakhulu and his six counterpart MECs and Premier Zweli Mkhize amassed a total of R1,5  million in travel claims in four months. Who can forget the “accidental” scandal when National Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele, was given a Mercedes Benz worth more than R1 million as a thank-you gift by beneficiaries of the KZN Vukuzakhe programme.

Tensions between old political rivals, the ANC and IFP, emerged in Greytown when three councillors, two from the IFP and one from the ANC, were murdered. In the process, a family, including a four-year-old girl, aligned to the ANC were killed. A police task team was formed together with leaders of the IFP and ANC in Greytown to put a stop to the killings.

 

The recession resulted in the KZN provincial government ordering its departments to cut back on unnecessary expenditure, such as entertainment, purchasing of new office furniture, catering and promotional items. Various municipalities in the province came under fire for their lack of service delivery provision and inability to manage their budgets. In December, the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube, announced that the department had stripped three municipalities — Umhlabuyalingana, Okhahlamba and Indaka — of the power to govern themselves.

 

Three attempts to have Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo removed as the council’s political head were unsuccessful. The municipality was not only embroiled in faction fighting among ANC councillors, but it made news mostly for the wrong reasons. There was the more than R1 million that funded the ANC rally at the beginning of the year;the R240-million water and electricity meter system, the tender of which was not awarded properly; the overtime payments of the mayor’s bodyguards, traffic officers and council security personnel, and then it was announced by the Municipal Demarcation Board that Pietermaritzburg will not be a metro come 2011. This was mainly attributed to the rifts among councillors in the municipality.

Some tussles that began years back were finally settled in this municipality this year, the main one being that Mayor Edward Dladla vacated the house paid for by the council. Opposition parties had opposed the purchase of a house for Dladla since 2006. The rates fiasco saw senior citizens taking the council to the Human Rights Commission and the Hilton Ratepayers’ Association engaging Premier Zweli Mkhize on residents’ concerns regarding the municipality.

Other stories that gripped the country this year included the spat between the SACP and Julius Malema, and the death of Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. In the province, the bull-killing ritual sparked a national debate on culture versus animal rights.

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