Gogo leads the protest

2011-07-09 16:30

Meet Sibongile Mkhize, the diminutive 60-year-old grandmother who has become the public face of the revolt by disaffected ANC members in Pietermaritzburg over corruption and the alleged manipulation of the party’s local government list process.

Since May 30 Mkhize, the mother of 11 children and a veteran of the United Democratic Front and the ANC, has been central to the occupation of the ruling party’s Moses Mabhida regional office in the KwaZulu-Natal capital by a group of dissident ANC members.

They are demanding the resignation of the regional executive committee.

They have also successfully demanded that Alpha Shelembe, the Msundusi Municipality deputy mayor, and Speaker Zonke Mbatha, both of whom presided over the financial collapse of the city, resign.

Mkhize, who served two terms as an ANC councillor in the municipality, and her colleagues were arrested on Monday night after the ANC leadership secured an interim eviction order.

After a night in jail and a R100 contempt of court fine, the grandmother of four was back on the street continuing her protest, this time from a car parked outside the Moses Mabhida offices.

She and her colleagues, along with ANC members involved in protest marches against Shelembe, face disciplinary hearings and potential expulsion from the ANC over allegedly breaching its code of conduct.

Mkhize believes that current regional executive committee members “lined their pockets and ran Pietermaritzburg into the ground” through manipulation of public spending. They have to go if the ANC is to be “restored to its former glory,” she said.

The provincial ANC is adamant that there was no reason to disband the regional executive committee and will push ahead with disciplinary action against Mkhize and her colleagues.

But Mhkize, dressed in slippers and a woollen hat, and looking a lot more like somebody’s grandmother than the leader of a revolt, remains unfazed. She and four other women sat huddled in the cold in a Toyota sedan outside the ANC office this week.

A police van was parked behind them, one of three shifts that monitor the offices around the clock. The protesters have split themselves into shifts so that they, too, maintain a 24-hour presence.

“We have to be here to stop anyone removing documents from the offices,” Mkhize said.

“I believe it is my duty to speak out and do everything in my power to ensure that they are not allowed to continue plundering.”

“There has been so much corruption here and in the district municipality under this leadership. They have used the elections to make sure they are all in positions where they can enrich themselves.

“We have met with the ANC task team led by Dr (Nkosazana) Dlamini-Zuma and are waiting to hear back from them. In the meantime, we stay here. We are going back to court to fight the eviction and will continue on the pavement until they get another court order to move us.”

Mkhize is conscious of the potential danger she and her colleagues are in but believes they don’t have any other option.

“We are just silly women who can’t protect ourselves but we’re here. If I die at least I’ll have died fighting for what is right,” she said.

Mkhize questioned why the ANC was using the courts to eject her group despite the resolution of the party’s national general council in Durban last August that no party member should go to court to settle internal disputes.

Mkhize is not interested in becoming part of the new regional leadership.

‘I am here to push this heavy metal back as far as possible. After that is done I’m going to enjoy my retirement and my grandchildren,” she said.

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