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ANC and IFP mudslinging keeps waterless Jozini residents parched in run-up to polling day

Daily Maverick logo Daily Maverick 2021/10/27 Chris Makhaye and Nce Mkhize

Since 2011, this municipality in Kwa-Zulu-Natal has changed hands several times between political foes, the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party. It is among the highly contested localities in the local government poll. On the ground, residents in the town are still recovering from the looting and mayhem of July.

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Just months before the April 2011 poll, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) was torn apart when its former chairperson, the late Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi, walked away with a chunk of supporters to form the National Freedom Party (NFP). 

As a result, the IFP lost most of the 32 municipalities it governed before that poll, including the Jozini Local Municipality, to the rival African National Congress (ANC).

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However, in 2016 the IFP turned the tables and made a dramatic come-back. In fact, the IFP trailed the ANC by 2% of the vote, but it somehow managed to convince other parties like the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters to form a minority coalition government. The coalition’s hand was later strengthened in 2018 when the IFP won a by-election in a ward that had been won by the ANC.

The town of Jozini is still recovering from the looting and mayhem of July. The only local mall, Jozini Mall, was ransacked and looted, with no shop escaping the looters’ reach. Other vital retail stores in the town like Spar,  Cambridge, Boxer were looted and some gutted. The ATMs were taken away. The main Alice Hardware was not spared.

In the weeks and months that followed, residents of Jozini and surrounding areas had to travel to places like Manguzi — a town more than 110km away that was not looted — to get vital supplies, even for basic things like child support and old age grants.

[caption id="attachment_1078031" align="alignnone" width="2560"] © Provided by Daily Maverick An IFP van passes across Jozini Dam, heading to Jozini town on 19 October 2021. (Photo: Mlungisi Mbele)[/caption]

During a visit to the area in October, there were signs of recovery. The mall is in the final stages of post-looting renovations, Spar, Cambridge and Boxer stores have been in operation for months and residents are receiving basic services locally again.

But the mall and other buildings were still in the process of rebuilding.

The damage from the July violence has been a setback for the  impoverished community of Jozini. A report by Spotlight for Daily Maverick last year noted that  Jozini was home to the country's most vulnerable people, with a quarter of the Umkhanyakude district's child-headed households.

[caption id="attachment_791122" align="alignnone" width="2160"] a dirt road in front of a brick building © Provided by Daily Maverick A dwelling where one of Jozini’s many child-headed households live. (Photo: Sandile Duma / Spotlight)[/caption]

What has been a mystery in Jozini is that the town and surrounding areas live close to the massive, idyllic and spectacular Jozini Dam (formerly Pongolapoort Dam), which supplies water to Nongoma.

Despite having the Jozini Dam close by, Jozini and surrounding communities don’t get water from it.

Water provision and sanitation stems from the competency of the district municipalities and not the local municipalities. The reason behind why these communities are not sourcing their water from this dam has been the source of perpetual wars of words between the IFP-run Jozini Municipality and the ANC-run Umkhanyakude District Municipality, with each blaming the other for the shortage of water in these communities.

Over the years, the communities of Jozini and surrounding areas staged several violent protests, demanding water provision.

In November last year, the Jozini municipality reprioritised its budget and constructed boreholes with electric pumps in all its 20 wards.

But this was not enough as these wards are widely spaced and densely populated and are located too far from some family settlements. The water tanks often arrive at haphazard times.

The construction of Jozini Dam, or Pongolapoort Dam, started in 1963 by the then Department of Water Affairs (DWA) to the tune of billions, was aimed at altering the natural flows of the Pongola River in order to provide adequate water for the irrigation of sugarcane fields along the adjacent flood plains. 

[caption id="attachment_1078033" align="alignnone" width="2560"] © Provided by Daily Maverick Pedestrians from Jozini town head  across the bridge to Manguzi.  (Photo: Mlungisi Mbele)[/caption]

The nearby sugarcane plantations have water in abundance but residents of Jozini and nearby villages don’t have adequate water to sustain themselves.

Jozini Mayor Delani Mabika said during his presentation of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) in February 2020 that the Covid-19 epidemic has dealt a blow to the municipality’s plan to improve lives. 

He said, in line with Section 152 and 153 of the South African Constitution, his municipality had aimed to achieve the following objectives: 

  • Providing of equitable essential basic services;
  • Creation of jobs;
  • Promoting economic development and growth;
  • Promoting democracy; and
  • Accountability and eradication of poverty.

He said: “Having undertaken all the necessary participatory processes with various and relevant stakeholders, we believe and regard this IDP as credible and will enable the municipality to manage the process of fulfilling its developmental responsibilities better, faster and effectively.”

The people of Jozini will have an opportunity at the polls to determine whether the current municipal leaders are on the right trajectory or if they have veered off course and whether a replacement would be required. 

Standing on the main Jozini Road, in Jozini town, last Thursday, one could see that the town has become the centre of tit-for-tat political messaging. Within 30 minutes one had seen more than a dozen of either ANC or IFP bakkies and other vehicles, all blasting each party’s songs, slogans and other messages.

The IFP message seemed to be saying, “Are you tired of corruption, of leaders eating with their families at your expense. You can stop this rot: Vote IFP.”

The ANC, on the other hand, seemed to be saying: “Five years of IFP administration has not done anything for you. Vote for development and progress. Vote ANC.”

Naye Mathe is the IFP’s Umkhanyakude District chairperson and Jozini Municipality’s Ward 6 candidate. The ward is currently under the rival ANC councillor but Mathe said it is now a foregone conclusion that he not only won this ward, but that also his party has retained the local municipality.

He said when the IFP took the municipality there was sewage spillage in Jozini due to mismanagement. “When we came in we introduced access roads, we introduced projects, we introduced sports fields, we ensured that RDP houses are for everyone and they are of a good standard.

“Since the IFP took over there has never been one service delivery protest. This is because we are transparent and people trust us to work for them. I have no doubt that the people of Jozini will retain the IFP because it has worked hard for them,” Mathe said.

But the ANC says it is poised to take over the Jozini Municipality once again and it has done enough to convince locals that they were better off in the ANC administered municipality.

Mandla Ndlela, the ANC regional treasurer in the Umkhanyakude District and who has been deployed to oversee the party’s election campaign in Jozini and surrounding areas, blamed the IFP administration for the mess in the area and for failure to provide adequate water to the residents. 

He said the IFP administration has been unable to keep to its end of the bargain so that the national and provincial government can provide necessary funds to start pumping water from the Jozini Dam to Jozini and other local communities. He also alleged that IFP-aligned companies have been awarded tenders to supply water to the communities.

“As the ANC, we were on the edge of doing what the IFP has failed to do in the last five years. Now we want to win this municipality outright so that we can prioritise the provision of water to these communities. People have welcomed us on our campaigns in communities. The IFP took this municipality by a default. This time around we are going to dislodge the IFP once and for all,” Ndlela.

Marvin Mbuyazi is a former ANC member who is standing as an independent in Jozini's Ward 5 in the upcoming elections. He said he had decided to stand on his own after his party had failed the people of his ward and had nominated an unpopular leader to contest the ward.

The people of Jozini were divided along party and class lines as to how they would vote in the polls. 56-year-old Esrom Malambula, a bus and truck driver, said he will be voting ANC because during its reign in the town things were working right. “Now that the IFP is in charge, they are hiring their relatives and close friends. Tenders are going to the same IFP people,” he said.

Hawker Thandazile Mabika (45) has cooked hot meals such as pap, rice, beef and chicken curries in Jozini town for more than a decade. She supports her five children, single-handedly, with her meagre income. She said the Covid-19 had decimated her business and she had to go to loan sharks to borrow R1,200 to buy stock.

“We live from hand to mouth in this business,” said Mabika, who added that she was apolitical but she was hoping that the upcoming local polls will bring about changes to their lives. 

“We have no shelter or any business support whatsoever. If they can give us shelter so that we can sell even when it rains. So far all we had is promises and more promises,” she said.

A farmer who was driving a white Ford Ranger, who asked not to be named for fear or retribution, said the recent looting and mayhem had set fear amongst local businesses. “I don't want to enter into local politics because I am only a farmer here. But what we saw here during looting was unbelievable. We hope that this thing will not happen again because there are many people who are investing their money here but they will pull everything out once they know they will not get return on investment,” he said. 

[caption id="attachment_1078030" align="alignnone" width="2560"] © Provided by Daily Maverick Sbongile Nyawo (52) stands on top of the bridge at Jozini on 19 October 2021. Nyawo  sells maize to the pedestrians and vehicles passing by. (Photo: Mlungisi Mbele)[/caption]

Another small business owner seeking shelter is 52-year-old Sbongile Nyawo, who sells roasted meat, pap, mealies and other goods at the Jozini Dam bridge. Her customers range from tourists, passing locals and taxi drivers.

“I don't know much about the upcoming elections. But whoever comes, if they can arrange for me to have a shelter and tables and chairs so that my customers can eat their food comfortably, I will be happy. There is a big potential for my business but I only need that support to allow it to be successful,” said Nyawo. DM

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