The reception area of the mayor’s parlour in the Durban city hall is bustling, but at the same time calm, as Mxolisi Kaunda’s staff prepare for the 10am executive committee meeting. I’m early for my interview with the new mayor, which I’ve been hustling to get since he was sworn in a little more than a month ago. The allocated time is only 30 minutes, so I don’t want to cause any delays.
There’s a lot to talk about.
Given the mayhem that his predecessor, Zandile Gumede, wreaked in the parlour — and the city — our man will have his hands full between now and the local government elections. Durban is the last metropolitan council under governing party control. The party slipped badly in the metro in the May national and provincial elections, so all eyes are on Kaunda.
Despite my early arrival, things are looking tight. Kaunda’s previous engagement is running over time and already eating into my slot. The chances of him allowing me to delay the start of exco are pretty slim, so I’m culling my list of questions as I sit waiting for the green light.
I’m called inside. The mayoral office is massive, with a lovely lounge area, where the mayor is chilling on the couch. Kaunda looks at home. For some reason, I start wondering how Helen Zille’s settling in at Nkululeko House, the Democratic Alliance headquarters in Johannesburg, now that she’s the federal council chairperson? Perhaps Zille has already moved the offices back to Cape Town, so that she doesn’t have to venture into refugee territory, as it were. Renamed it Vryheid Huis, or something similarly progressive.
We get going. Kaunda’s already out of the blocks by the time I get my recorder on. Straight into a synopsis of what he’s done since September 6, when he was sworn in. Kaunda hardly stops to breathe as he lays down a barrage of facts and figures, moves straight into the short- and medium-term plans to stabilise the city, the long strategy for drawing investment while cleaning up the city administration and convincing voters and investors alike that the governing party knows what it’s doing.
Kaunda’s clearly aware that the clock is running down. He’s not wasting any time, packing the words in. There’s an added benefit to this style of delivery. For him. I can’t get a word in edgeways. I’ve had to abandon the list of questions. If I’m lucky I’ll get to ask two or three by the time Kaunda’s minders pull the plug and he heads into exco.
Kaunda stops for breath. Eventually. I ask if he turned the security cameras back on when he moved in. Kaunda ignores the question, ploughs on. He fields the next one about the effect of Gumede’s bid to become ANC regional chairperson again, moves on to a wrap on the city’s economic future and then we’re done and he’s off to exco.
I wander downstairs. I’m hungry.
The mobile goes. It’s the office. I’m also covering the fallout over the weekend claims that ANC national chairperson and minerals and energy minister Gwede Mantashe paid journalists from the Sunday World R70 000 to kill a story about his extramarital affairs. Gwede’s apparently Mantashed. Again. Now Gwede says that although he had told the newspaper’s editor that he paid off the two journalists, he didn’t actually do so. The office wants to know what the presidency — and the governing party — have to say about all this.
Thus far, not much. The party’s issued some mumbled statement about Gwede’s appreciation of freedom of the media and the like. The South African National Editors Forum is also letting the matter slide. The presidency has muttered a platitude or two but has, not uncharacteristically, dodged the issue.
This is mad. The party and the presidency can’t ignore this. What Mantashe does with his penis, and his money, are between him, the subject of his penile interest and his better half. If Mantashe’s paying bribes to extortionists working in the media, however, or lying to editors to try and scare off journalists, then there’s a very public problem.
Either Mantashe is a liar, or he paid a bribe to the journalists.
Either he is corrupt, or his word cannot be trusted. Either way, Mantashe should already have been issued with a notice of intention to suspend by both the ANC and the presidency, while his actions are properly investigated. This man is responsible for the integrity of our mineral resources. If he lies to the media — or pays bribes — how can he be allowed to occupy such a responsible position?
The lack of action by the presidency says one thing. Cyril Ramaphosa is clearly not interested in dealing with this mess. There’s an ANC national general council coming up next year. Ramaphosa will want the Tiger onside to help stave off any attack from secretary general Ace Magashule’s forces, so forget any intervention from the presidency any time soon.
New Dawn my ass.