Guest Column

Durban in chaos: Zandile Gumede supporters continue unabated

2019-07-14 10:42
An Independent Media journalist being manhandled by eThekwini metro police outside Durban City Hall. (Screengrab, Desiree Erasmus)

An Independent Media journalist being manhandled by eThekwini metro police outside Durban City Hall. (Screengrab, Desiree Erasmus)

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Ramaphosa will need to bring the fight to Gumede if he hopes to bring any form of stability to eThekwini and root out Zuma's power, writes Kaveel Singh.

Another week of violence, a direct result of Zandile Gumede's supporters' protests, has come and gone in Durban.

As we enter dangerous territory after the extension of her special leave, how much more can one city take? Day one of her extended leave saw the Durban CBD descend into chaos as her supporters and police clashed on numerous occasions in the day.

If you've been living in a bubble since the general elections, here's the situation:

There has been a lot of political changes since President Cyril Ramaphosa took office. Few high-level politicians will publicly admit this, but there's a battle to quell the powerful influence of our consistently controversial former president Jacob Zuma.

After Ramaphosa ousted him from office, he receded back home to KwaZulu-Natal where his base of power can be found in the eThekwini Region, the biggest ANC region in South Africa.

Heading up that region is none other than Gumede, the untouchable, now ousted mayor of the eThekwini metro municipality.

Since the Hawks arrested her on corruption-related charges linked to a R208m Durban Solid Waste tender, she's used her supporters to assert her dominance over the ever-flailing provincial leadership who asked her to step down.

While provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli insists all is well, his headquarters have brazenly come under fire by Gumede.

The absurdity of the situation can be best demonstrated by the transportation of supporters a few weeks ago with Durban Transport buses. Gumede is an ousted mayor, but her supporters are still bused in with municipal resources? For shame, leadership. How much more audacious can one person be?  

For shame to the provincial and national leadership for letting this happen to the innocent people of Durban.

Ramaphosa will need to bring the fight to Gumede if he hopes to bring any form of stability to eThekwini and root out Zuma's power. If he does not, the sad reality is that the people of eThekwini would ultimately suffer as services within the municipal mandate continue to decline.

Stop arresting journalists and be better at policing

Meanwhile, another shocking turn of events during the first day of Gumede's special leave was the arrest and manhandling of journalists outside city hall on Thursday.  

During morning skirmishes between supporters and police, IOL journalist Sihle Mavuso was arrested and manhandled by authorities. A lot has been said about this with some local police damning him for throwing a punch at an officer after being tackled to the floor. On the flipside, there are those who point out that police were quick to turn to violence.

In truth, when we break it down, the answer is far simpler than one would imagine.

Mavuso, who I know personally and can attest to his kindhearted, gentle nature, did in fact punch a police officer. That cannot be denied. There is video footage of this. Of course, he was also violently accosted by several officers preceding his moment of outrage and perhaps self-defense.

So, here's my next question.

How well did Durban's ever troublesome Metro Police react to this situation? Why was he tackled in the first place? These questions will likely be answered in judicial proceedings that Mavuso has stated are forthcoming.

However, I cannot help but wonder why our officers communicate so little during these protests. As a journalist of 10 years who has attended countless violent protests – I cannot begin to explain how often poorly trained police escalate violent situations.

Yes, Metro Police in Durban are well trained in tackling and subduing suspects, but do they have the keen sense of lawmen who protect and serve communities?

Absolutely not!

We must remember, these officers are being paid, undergo training and voluntarily accept the burden to protect and serve.

Were these officers watching the crowd properly. Analysing REAL threats? Or just grabbing at a group of people?

I was arrested in 2016 during the height of Fees Must Fall protests in Durban and it might interest you to know that the two commanding officers during my arrest were the same during Mavuso's.

Plainly, SA law enforcement, under Bheki Cele is not doing enough to protect the innocent and eradicate the criminals in society.

If we look at the situation in Western Cape for example, poor policing and a lack of crime intelligence led to military interventions. This is why Cele has been so reluctant to concede the need for it. It shows that our authorities allow the escalation of violence to go unchecked.  

Until our police, at metro and SAPS level learn to communicate appropriately and truly engage the community, we will have continued violent clashes and a further disconnect from the public and those in power.

This can only lead to a break down of society.

With Gumede supporters this past week promising to continue taking to the streets, Durban law enforcement will have to seriously evaluate how they approach these tense situations.

If not, we risk even more violence to an already ailing city.

- Kaveel Singh is a News24 journalist in Durban.

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