DA in KZN whisper sweet nothings to candidates
Democratic Alliance leaders in KwaZulu-Natal have been accused of nepotism and racism linked to the compilation of its proportional representation lists in the KwaDukuza municipality.
Councillor Thokozani Gumede has applied for an urgent interdict in the high court in Durban to nullify and set aside the party’s list.
In court papers obtained by the Mail & Guardian this week, Gumede accuses DA leaders of removing black candidates preferred by residents from its final list submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission last Thursday.
DA Federal chairperson James Selfe said Gumede’s application would be “vigorously opposed” by the party. “His accusations are baseless and spurious,” Selfe said in response to questions. “Each and every list process is characterised by candidates who believe that they should have been elected or re-elected and then cast around for reasons.”
The trouble started after Gumede, together with other councillors, including iLembe constituency chairperson Malcolm Hubner, Bongani Gumede (no relation to Thokozani Gumede), and Andrew Gopal, were “red-flagged” by the party, which, according to DA policy, rules out a candidate from standing for election or re-election.
Gumede successfully appealed his red-flagging but found he had been pushed from number three on the list, a position he had occupied before the 2011 local government elections, to number 12, which rules him out of a council position.
Hubner, who had also successfully appealed his red-flagging, appeared at number three on the list.
Gumede, who blew the whistle in 2013 on an alleged housing scandal in the province, claimed his demotion suited the interests of individuals with links to high-ranking party officials in KwaZulu-Natal, and that he was sidelined for advocating equal demographic representation in the party’s choice of internal leaders and candidates for public office.
“It is a known fact that I have, on many occasions, questioned [provincial chairperson] Haniff Hoosen’s failure to apply and implement the party’s diversity policy in the KZN area,” he said.
Gumede is the only black African candidate on the list and is unlikely to be elected as a proportional representative councillor. This means the DA would have no black African councillors on the KwaDukuza municipal council, which is contrary to the DA’s diversity policy.
Selfe however maintained that the party was “satisfied that the list is diverse, and that it contains committed candidates of real ability”.
Bongani Gumede, the only DA councillor in the ANC-controlled Ndwedwe municipality, said “factionalism” in the DA, and not experience as a councillor, determined where people appeared on the list.
“I’m not even going to object to my red-flagging; there will be no change. But these factions will affect us badly in the elections,” said Bongani Gumede. He said he had lost hope and planned to retire and farm after his term expires in August.
Thokozani Gumede wants the court to stop the DA and Hoosen from “publishing and/or submitting its list of candidates for the KwaDukuza municipality” pending a review of the candidate list process.
He asked the court to set aside “the process and resultant list of nominated proportional representative candidates” and to compel the DA to provide a record of the decision-making process, including the reasons and justifications that led to the final list.
“I want to know who compiled the list and how it was done, because it is clear to me that experience working in a municipality had nothing to do with it,” said Gumede.
In court papers Gumede claims the candidate list consists of friends, relatives and associates of DA members who occupy influential positions in the party. He argues that a perception of “bias and nepotism” is well-founded and obvious.
The view is echoed by other councillors.
Some accused Madhun Sobram Sing, the former DA caucus leader in KwaDukuza and current iLembe municipality councillor, of being behind the list’s alleged manipulation. Sing has been the iLembe constituency chairperson for almost 16 years and is said to have “friends in high places”.
Sing alledgedly ensured that his cousin and fellow councillor, Dew Sing, and Vernon Pillay, a local journalist and close ally, were on the list.
Sing is apparently close to Sandy Kalyan, a DA MP who was the chairperson of the selection panel for the iLembe district municipality and surrounding areas, which includes KwaDukuza.
Sing denied being friends with Kalyan, and said all allegations against him were motivated by “sour grapes”. “I don’t have the power to put anyone on the list.”
Kalyan confirmed she had become friends with Sing and “many other councillors” while serving as political head in iLembe for almost eight years, but denied wrongdoing. “All candidates were selected based on their overall score [in the DA’s professional development management system]. Those not on the list just didn’t get good scores, nothing else.
“You can perform very well in the selection interview, but if you didn’t do your duties as councillor very well, then you don’t make it on to the list.”
She also claimed that not enough black African candidates had applied and that the majority of people in the iLembe district were either Indian or white.
Gumede said the party has also placed him as a candidate for Ward One in KwaDukuza, an ANC stronghold. “Even [senior party leaders] Mmusi Maimane or Helen Zille, if they were to contest this ward, they won’t get 100 votes,” he said.