/ 14 June 2024

New KZN premier Ntuli says his government’s priority is service delivery

Thami Ntuli
Newly elected KwaZulu-Natal premier Thami Ntuli. Photo: Mbuso Kunene

Newly elected KwaZulu-Natal premier Thami Ntuli has pledged his coalition government’s commitment to intervene in municipalities in the province that are in danger of collapse.

Ntuli said on Friday the priority of his cabinet — whose composition will be made public on Tuesday — would be service delivery and that the work of the provincial government should get under way immediately.

Ntuli was elected as premier of KwaZulu-Natal in a clean sweep of the legislature’s top positions by his Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and its provincial coalition partners.

The IFP, ANC, Democratic Alliance (DA) and National Freedom Party (NFP) coalition won the vote for premier — and those for speaker and deputy speaker — by 41 out of 80.

The uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, which has 37 seats in the legislature, fielded candidates for all three positions who were backed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has two seats.

The ANC’s Nontembeko Boyce was elected as speaker, by the same margin, defeating Mervyn Dirks of the MK party, while the DA’s Mmabatho Tembe took the post of deputy speaker.

Ntuli also expressed the continued support of the province for Zulu monarch MisuZulu ka Zwelithini, whose budget is covered by the KwaZulu-Natal government through the department of the royal household.

“One thing we all know, we all support the king. This government supports the king. We have no question about that,” Ntuli said.

Ntuli said his experience as the chairperson of the South African Local Government Association (Salga) and as mayor of the King Cetshwayo district municipality would “add value to what the government will be doing to try and assist our municipalities”.

He said the provincial coalition — set up in accordance with the national agreement among the parties — would be able to manage tensions between them and would focus on the work it needed to do.

Ntuli said he was “humbled” by the opportunity to serve the people of KwaZulu-Natal and by the manner in which the sitting had been conducted.

“It is an important journey that we are starting today,” he said. “We will glean from those who have gone before us to try and make the lives of the people of KwaZulu-Natal better and of our country.” He added that work would start “from today”.

Ntuli will put together a provincial cabinet in coming days and said its composition would be announced on Tuesday when the legislature sits again. He said the parties had a framework agreement for how they would work, and that this would assist in maintaining stability.

“We are confident that with understanding of the framework agreement that we have, the  government of provincial unity will be a stable one,” Ntuli said.

 “We have a mature democracy. We were able to come together with the ANC, who we have been constantly criticising. Those things that were not right are still not right, but we know we have to work together to fix the things that the people are saying are not right.”

The legislature sitting was punctuated by a number of disputes raised by Dirks, other MK party members of the provincial legislature (MPL) and the EFF’s Mongezi Twala, who attempted to have party agents involved in the counting process.

They also demanded a recount in the vote for speaker, claiming that MPLs had been able to see each other voting and that this was a violation of the secrecy of the ballot.

They were overruled by KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Thoba Poyo-Dlwati, who continued with the process, with Ntuli being elected just after 7pm on Friday night.

The MK party refused to provide concurrence for the province’s delegation to the National Council of Provinces — which sits on Saturday morning — resulting in the speaker declining to sign the mandate.

Dirks set the tone for the five years ahead when he refused to congratulate the premier on his election and accused Poyo-Dlwati of “serious irregularities” in the running of the vote.

Dirks said a “great injustice” had been committed against the people of KwaZulu-Natal in the election of the premier.