Should we be worried?

Man is by nature a political animal.

ARISTOTLE

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Spoilt Votes 33396 Votes

Independent Candidates 32987 Votes

5th and 6th place went to Spoilt Votes and Independent Candidates respectively with neither picking up any seats. That literally means that frustration and desperation outweighed Action SA which was the only other party to win more than 20000 votes. This is Durban, we have 4 million people and 2 million registered voters; also most of KwaZulu-Natal feels like Durban is their 2nd home; if less than 20000 votes is what you’re worth, either you’re not campaigning correctly, you don’t know anyone, people don’t like you, or there’s something wrong with you.

20000 votes is like a small Indian wedding or an average midweek Durban Christian Centre prayer meeting. There are more than 20000 votes at stake every Friday at every mosque and Jacob Zuma has more than 20000 Durban girls who like him on social media; so 20000 votes is not a lot. In a 5 year election campaign cycle, obtaining the support of 20000 votes means winning 11 people over everyday for 5 years. A trained vervet monkey from Burman Bush could do that with ease, so if you got less than 20000 votes, what is wrong with you?

Don’t say you didn’t have the money to campaign. This is a local election. You go house to house in the area in which you live and you talk to your neighbours and get them to support you. You are from the area that you intend to represent, so as long as you have a program that’s worth something, why didn’t you get more than 20000 votes? Okay, so there’s COVID lockdown which is driving people mad and making them refuse to participate in anything onerous, and choosing which crook is going to steal the money you pay to have DSW remove the rubbish once a week is onerous. In addition, we had a small time episode of UDW Gone Wild Affirmative Shopping Edition in the winter Christmas season, and while agreeably the Free Zuma campaign and the We Like To Loot And Burn Society went overboard with their festivities, that should not be a reason to abstain from voting in the Who Wants To Be A Tender Millionaire playoffs. So apathy shouldn’t be the excuse.

Have the people of Durban lost faith with the political process? Inasmuch as the Raj is no longer with us and the Minority Front pulled 1, I repeat 1, seat out of 222 total seats; it is clear that there few if any iconic mad people who stand up for Durban. The Zulus for their part have the problem of not knowing which prince is king; and this uncertainty may have played a part in the low voter turnout. There is of course the reality that HRH Misizulu takes Lord Mageba very seriously, as all of us do, he is after all the Lord of War, while we are apparently being told that HRH Lethukuthula and HRH Simakade are more supporters of Msholozi’s party, which is understandable, Msholozi is breaking records with the longevity of his legal woes at Durban High Court and might have the most expensive court case racket in Durban’s history yet.

So perhaps the Zulus stayed away from the polls out of insecurity, voting for the wrong party could be construed as voting against the future king. That sort of fear is understandable. What is not understandable is the government of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal’s reluctance to pay the demand of R1 billion to the Office of the Royal Household as 4 payments of R250 million for each of the Zulu Monarchy, the Cultural Institutions and Activities of the Zulu Nation, the Office of the Prime Minister and Government of the Zulu Nation and the Institution of Inkatha Ya KwaZulu. So we are left with a Zulu population in Durban who’s too afraid to vote for fear of voting disrespectfully; and who’s disaffected with the government in general for their refusing to allocate sufficient resources to the Office of the Royal Household. No wonder only 42% of Durban’s voters turned out to vote.

Durban has a municipal budget of R50 billion every year. This is enough money with prudent management to solve all of the problems that exist and to develop Durban into a 1st class 1st world city. And yet there are 580 squatter camps in Durban, such that potentially a 5th of Durban’s people live in shacks. No water, no sanitation, no public hygiene, no refuse removal, no sewage services, no stormwater drains, no pavements, no security, no electricity and no quality of life. But wait what about the thousands of people living on the streets of Durban and the thousands more begging on the streets of Durban? What portion of the R50 billion budget is being spent to solve these problems? We have had 20 years of a caring and developmental municipality. Are Durban’s people so inept that we have not been able to solve the obvious problems with all the money, all the time and all the opportunity that we have had?

Something needs to be done, and yet in response to the dire state of affairs, the majority of the proposals (that is the various political parties that contested the elections), being some 48 out of 55 proffered manifestos, polled less than 20000 votes. That is literally the people of Durban saying, “No thank you!”, to almost all of the policy purveyors in the market. Durban is a rough town for those who chance their arm without any forethought. The ANC, the DA, the EFF, the IFP, the Spoilt Votes, the Independent Candidates and Action SA each won more than 20000 votes; and let’s be clear the average ward in Durban has approximately 8000 voters in it, so 10 candidates each taking a chance in their communities and winning 2000 votes each would still put your party over the line.

It is impossible that all 33396 Spoilt Votes were intentional acts of protests, that they were all unintentional errors, that they were all demonstrations of voter illiteracy, that they were all pre-planned and forced errors or that they were all solicited errors. It is more likely that they were a combination of these things. Similarly while the PR system does not enable Independent Candidates to win votes outside of their wards; and while there is no logical reason to stand as an independent candidate because starting a local political party is easy, cheap and requires you to go out and get supporters to join your cause in the course of establishing the party itself, which does most of your campaigning work for you, so that you stand a better chance as an independent voice for the community; it is unlikely that all 32987 votes were cast for a group of independent candidates whom were working together.

In fact I would be surprised if any independent candidate won more than 5000 votes given that none of the independent candidates won any ward councillor seats. This is strange because as an independent candidate you only have 1 ward to canvass, and if you are serious about local community development, you should be able to recruit volunteers to canvass the whole ward to your cause. But then again, start a political party just for that ward, “Durban Ward # Development Party” or something similar; and get all those PR votes as well. I’m just saying it worked for the other small parties that now have 1 or 2 seats in council, so why not try it.

But all this is less relevant than the actual discussion of whether we should be worried. Worried by the 42% voter turnout? Worried by the fact that only 7 political parties polled more than 20000 votes? Worried by the reality that the 6th most votes went to independent candidates, which demonstrates a lack of faith in the political process itself? Worried by the amazing result achieved by Spoilt Votes, yay! 5th place!? Worried by the general apathy among Durban’s people regarding the management of the City of Durban by the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality? Or worried by the poor quality of offerings by the vast majority of political parties that were on the ballot?

Regardless of which thing worries us, the fact is that every political party that won votes in the election has an obligation to service the voters who entrusted them with their votes. This means that they have to enable those voters to achieve their aspirations going forward. This is by no means a small responsibility and by no means an easy task, so hold them responsible and demand that they lead whether they have seats in council or not. As Durban celebrates its 200th anniversary we will look to all of Durban’s politicians for new profitable visions for Durban to achieve and new prosperous directions for Durban to take. Masiyaphambili Sonke eThekwini Masiyaphambili Sonke!!!

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