Ready for the challenge

By Drum Digital
22 September 2016

Following infighting and controversial house demolitions in the run-up to the elections, can eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede win over her sceptics?

By Zama Chutshela

She's just become the first female mayor of eThekwini Municipality - but the historical moment was marred by internal fighting and controversy.

The ANC’s Zandile Gumede was victorious in the recent elections, beating the Democratic Alliance’s provincial leader, Zwakele Mncwango. But before that, in a more controversial move, she had managed to oust former mayor James Nxumalo from the ANC’s top spot in the region.

Many party members did not accept her as regional leader at the end of last year, and this has damaged Gumede’s reputation. “I’m aware that other people see me as a bad person – someone who is cruel and heartless, but it’s not true,” Gumede (57) insists. “This is all because of smear campaigns.

There are those who know me. “They know I have a good heart and that I care for the community.”

Gumede says her name was dragged through the mud over the demolition of houses in Inanda, north of Durban , which is also her hometown. “At the time I was the ward councillor there and we had warned the community that their houses would be demolished,” she explains.

“We requested them not to build, as we were in a process of demolishing the entire area and building it anew. More than 300 people were moved to transit camps.” In the end, Gumede says it was only four homeowners who resisted. “I literally begged them to stop building and move to transit camps so that development could take place,” she tells us.

“They flatly refused, leaving us with no option but to take the matter to court. “Eventually one of the four houses was demolished, but it is not true that I personally sent soldiers to demolish people’s houses. The council authorised the demolition of those houses.

I was also affected – my own home was demolished. There was nothing I could do, as I had to allow development to take place.”

Read more in 29 September issue of DRUM

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