Bhengu won’t relent over funeral speech

2010-10-12 00:00

RUTH Bhengu, former Ugu District deputy mayor and president of the South African National Civics Organisation (Sanco), has defended her criticism of the government’s handling of the recent public servants’ strike during a funeral.

She made the ciriticism during the funeral of ANC eThekwini strongman John Zakhele ­Mchunu in Clermont on Sunday.

Bhengu, who is also the chairperson of the parliamentary transport portfolio committee, was booed and mourners started singing while she was delivering her speech condemning the government for not moving fast enough to resolve the strike by more than a million public servants last month.

While Bhengu said that Sanco supported the public servants’ demands for a living wage, she also attacked the public sector unions for showing disrespect for the rights of ordinary citizens by using violence to prevent them from accessing healthcare and other government services during their strike.

She told The Witness yesterday she does not regret having made such a political speech at ­Mchunu’s funeral, which was attended by President Jacob Zuma and some cabinet ministers.

“I think it was correct [to raise the public servants’ strike issue at a funeral]. We would not have raised it there if we believed that it was a wrong platform. It was a funeral of a politician where we raised a social, economic and political issue as politicians and the strike is a social economic and political issue,” Bhengu said.

In her speech she called on the government to close the huge salary gap between the lowest and the highest earners among the public servants and to ensure that there is equality in the remuneration system for public servants.

Mourners who spoke to The Witness at the funeral raised their concerns about Bhengu using Mchunu’s funeral “for narrow political point scoring”.

Meanwhile, KZN ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said the ANC will not yet embark on a process to elect ­Mchunu’s replacement as the leader of the biggest ANC region in the country.

“We are still mourning the loss of a comrade and our structures are not yet discussing the replacement. We do not even entertain media inquiries pertaining to that as we have to respect the family that is still in mourning,” Zikalala said.

Media reports last week speculated that possible candidates to replace Mchunu are KZN’s SA Communist Party chairperson and eThekwini municipality speaker James Nxumalo, metro councillor and eThekwini ANC deputy regional chairperson Stanley Makhathini, and the head of eThekwini municipality’s housing department, Nigel Gumede.



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