Ndebele leaves a mixed legacy

2008-06-21 00:00

This weekend’s African National Congress provincial election conference marks the end of an era for outgoing chairperson and provincial premier S’bu Ndebele.

Having emerged as a leader in the province after the departure of current ANC president Jacob Zuma, Ndebele was quick to make his mark as transport MEC and spearheaded what are now national campaigns in the form of Asiphephe and Arrive Alive.

Together with other ANC leaders in the province, Ndebele played a key part in the destabilisation of the Inkatha Freedom Party which was in charge at the time and he ultimately delivered KwaZulu-Natal to the ANC in national elections for the first time. He also played an important role in the upliftment of women and at least seven heads of departments are women, which is more than 50%.

Together with provincial MEC for Finance and Economic Development Zweli Mkhize, who is favourite to take over the position of ANC chairperson for KwaZulu-Natal, Ndebele was at the forefront of building bilateral economic relations with nations from the East such as China, Japan, India and Dubai.

Furthermore, he was passionate about matters relating to history and culture. This was evident in the way he went about retaining the dignity of amakhosi in the province.

However, some have argued that, in his enthusiasm to deal with some issues such as those of culture and sport, he ended up taking over the functions of these departments. As a result, little is known about what the Department of Sport and Recreation does in the province because Ndebele has been synonymous with 2010 and not MEC for Sport Amichand Rajbansi. This is also the case with the Department of Arts and Culture where he became the face of cultural activities instead of MEC Weziwe Thusi.

Ndebele fell foul of rank-and-file members of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal when he said he did not see anything wrong with President Thabo Mbeki going for a third term, while leading a province that had made its choice clear by siding with Zuma.

He failed to show leadership when a financial scandal involving more than R100 million brewed in the Department of Agriculture and his involvement and implication in the Nguni cows scandal showed his governance was not entirely clean.

While an MEC in his Cabinet and party comrade Mike Mabuyakhulu was quick to dissolve the IFP-dominated Abaqulusi Municipality in Vryheid in November 2005, Ndebele dragged his feet when the ANC-led municipality of uMgungundlovu District was equally guilty of corruption and mismanagement.

Despite all this, Ndebele must get credit for being politically astute and for allowing the will of the people to speak in their choice of a new leader.

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