ANC rally or oldies' gig?

READY TO RUMBLE Zandile Gumede in her office at Durban’s City Hall. Picture:  Matthew Mickleton
READY TO RUMBLE Zandile Gumede in her office at Durban’s City Hall. Picture: Matthew Mickleton

ANC mayoral candidate for Durban says she prefers hard work to being the centre of attention

The ANC’s mayoral candidate for Durban, Zandile Gumede, introduced the governing party’s ward candidates for the Verulam area to the more than 5 000 pensioners packed into a massive marquee on the local sports grounds this week.

Gumede, who is also the ANC’s eThekwini regional chairperson, coaxed the crowd that was huddled under blankets and coats on an uncharacteristically cold day to applaud as each candidate was introduced.

Although the crowd responded lazily, Gumede hammered home the message that supporters must ensure they vote for the ANC candidates “if they want continuity in the provision of the social services that in many cases keep them alive”.

Mama, as 55-year-old Gumede is affectionately known in ANC circles, was addressing a Project Mikondzo gathering called by the social development department to publicise social-cluster services, but her delivery was a straight-up campaign speech more suited to an ANC election rally.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini launched Project Mikondzo, which seeks to address service-delivery backlogs.

Gumede was elected as eThekwini chairperson in December after a bruising battle with current mayor James Nxumalo during the listing process. She served two terms as eThekwini ANC treasurer before ousting Nxumalo.

She took the opportunity to list the services already being provided by the ANC government and introduced the R300 transport grant that the department was adding to the monthly stipends of pensioners.

The old folks in the audience roared their approval as they received blankets and food hampers from the department.

“The ANC government looks after elderly people. Vote ANC. Vote for the government of [President Jacob] Zuma,” she said.

She then went out of the back of the tent and jumped into her black Jeep Grand Cherokee to swap her brown coat for a yellow ANC T-shirt.

Back at the marquee, she helped to hand out gifts to pensioners, whose names were called by organisers.

Gumede comes from a family of landowners in Amaoti, Inanda, in the north of the city.

The former civil rights activist, who cut her political teeth in the Inanda Civic Association in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is notoriously media shy and has a reputation for working hard to stay out of the spotlight.

“I’m not a person of [the] media. I’m a person who wants to work. You guys [the media] can build a person, but you can also break them,” she said.

However, she soldiers on and expresses her confidence in an ANC victory in the metro come August 3.

She argues that the “bruises” from the party’s succession battle in the region are fading quickly enough for the ANC to mount an effective campaign.

While the process gave rise to some ANC members who failed to make it on to the candidate lists opting to contest the elections as independent candidates, she said this was to be expected because “angry” people are opposed to democratic processes.

“I don’t think the ANC will lose one ward to an independent candidate. If you are going to work alone, how can you deliver?” Gumede asked.

Gumede left school in Grade 11 after falling pregnant and was forced to stay at home by her father, Lawrence Majola – a strict disciplinarian.

However, she forced her way into political activism while studying adult courses with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies.

Gumede’s opponents within the ANC were critical of her “generosity”.

In the run-up to one of the several cancelled eThekwini regional conferences last year, pictures appeared on social-media platforms showing gift bags – alleged to contain money – being stored at a hotel near the conference venue for distribution among delegates backing her against Nxumalo.

She denied the allegations that the bags were meant for bribing delegates.

She may be a grandmother, but she has no lack of political muscle. She was one of key drivers in the bruising battle for ANC provincial chairpersonship between Sihle Zikalala and former premier Senzo Mchunu.

Gumede and current ANC provincial secretary Super Zuma were credited with swinging the vote in Zikalala’s favour.

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