‘Ulundi is KZN capital’

2018-07-09 14:54
Zululand District Municipality Mayor Thulasizwe Buthelezi believes the local government is on course to return to its former glory days.

Zululand District Municipality Mayor Thulasizwe Buthelezi believes the local government is on course to return to its former glory days. (Clive Ndou )

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Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s land imbizo in Ulundi last week not only generated national interest, it also brought back to public consciousness the long forgotten town that was once the provincial government’s headquarters.

While there has been mixed reaction to the speech delivered by Zwelithini, Thulasizwe Buthelezi, the mayor of the IFP-controlled Zululand District Municipality running Ulundi, is just grateful that the event took place in what is considered the party’s historical home.

“As a municipality it gives us immense pride that we hosted the king’s imbizo, an extremely significant gathering. Through the imbizo we were able to once more remind South Africans that, Ulundi, and not Pietermaritzburg, is the true capital of KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.

In his speech, Zwelithini, who has been angered by the ANC’s plans to remove tribal land from the control of the province’s traditional leaders by dissolving the Ingonyama Trust that administers the more than three million hectares of land on his behalf, lambasted ruling party leaders for “plotting” against the Zulu people.

Buthelezi (37), who was elected towards the end of last year, played a central role in ensuring that the thousands of the people who attended the imbizo felt welcome.

“Obviously as the IFP we see events of this nature as another opportunity to showcase our abilities when it comes to running municipalities. I’m glad that all went as planned and our guests were able to get a sense of how pleasant it is to live in a well-run municipality,” he said.

However, had the imbizo happened two years ago, the mood amongst IFP leaders attending the event would have been different.

Shortly before the 2011 local government elections the ANC and National Freedom Front (NFP) entered into a collaborative agreement that saw the IFP dislodged from power at the municipality.

The IFP was only able to regain lost ground in the 2016 local government elections.

Buthelezi described the five-year period in which the IFP was out in the cold in its own backyard of Ulundi, which is also the home town of the party’s founder and president Mangosuthu Buthelezi, as the “most painful”.

“It was heart wrenching. The most painful part was that we had lost the municipality through treachery and knew that the ANC and NFP did not care about the people of Zululand; all they wanted was to loot.

“During that five-year period the people of Zululand suffered a lot as service delivery came to a standstill as corruption and wasteful expenditure became the order of the day at the municipality. For example the 2015 auditor-general’s reports shows that irregular expenditure during the ANC/NFP tenure stood at R190 million,” he said.

Buthelezi, who cut his teeth at the IFP Youth Brigade (IFPYB) where he rose to the position of national chairperson, said the IFP was in the process of cleaning up the municipality following what he termed the ANC/NFP’s “disastrous tenure”.

“We suspended the municipal manager, who was chief financial officer (CFO) when the ANC and NFP were doing all sorts of wrong things. We have also referred some of the cases to the public protector,” he said.

With an annual budget slightly above R1 billion, the municipality is battling to address pressing water supply problems coupled by high unemployment.

Apart from funds Buthelezi says were lost through corruption and maladministration during the ANC/NFP tenure, the municipality’s biggest loss was when the ANC won the province in 2004.

Following its 2004 victory, the ANC immediately relocated the provincial government headquarters to Pietermaritzburg.

“The unemployment rate skyrocketed and many local businesses who had been relying on provincial government employees had to close shop — the entire economy of Ulundi took a severe strain,” he said.

When The Witness visited the municipality’s offices last week, scores of people, ranging from unemployed youth to pensioners, were queued outside Buthelezi’s office. While Buthelezi admitted the limited resources at the municipality made it impossible for all residents to get want they wanted, he cited the long queues as evidence that the local government was slowly winning back the confidence of residents.

NFP spokesperson Sabelo Sigudu rejected Buthelezi’s assertion that the party mismanaged the municipality.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  land expropriation

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