Destroying the new and the old: The removal of a mural at the Durban Botanic Gardens depicting South Africa’s transition from Apartheid to Democracy

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The Durban Botanical Gardens was established in 1849 and is the oldest botanical garden in Africa. The Botanic Gardens curates major collections such as cycads, palms and orchids and, in the true tradition of botanic gardens, is several gardens within one.

The Durban Botanic Gardens Trust runs the Botanical Gardens.  The Trust is an independent and discretionary Trust, established in 1993 to support the Botanic Gardens with various maintenance and development projects including projects with a focus on education, biodiversity, heritage, horticulture, research and people, plants and culture.

This week a mural reflecting South Africa’s old and new flags was removed from the Durban Botanical Gardens after the Ethekwini Municipality received complaints that it was offensive and provocative. I have written before about the desirability of banning the old South African flag or not. In my view, a ban will be counterproductive. However, I understand the association of the old flag with Apartheid and I, therefore, personally discourages people from displaying it in public, other than for historical or artistic purposes.

The following newspaper article covered the removal of the mural:

Old SA flag removed from Durban Botanic Gardens

I live in Durban and visits the Botanical Gardens often. It’s a place of tranquillity and reflection, and it often hosts music concerts and other events. Many many people have therefore since it had been put up twenty years ago, walked past the mural at the entrance to the Gardens witnessing its magical transition from the old flag to the beautiful new South African flag. A powerful symbol of transition from the old to the new and symbolising change and renewal. Walking from the other side past the mural and towards the exit of the Botanic Gardens, only the new South African flag is visible unless one looked consciously back over your shoulder to then view the old South African flag. The artist producing the mural created this effect to symbolise the need to look forward rather than backward to a South Africa that belongs to all, Black and White.

Sadly because of a few complaints and the random act by an administrative functionary, Mr. Thembokosi Ngcobo who is the Head: Parks, Recreation and Culture at the Ethewkini Municipality, this beautiful mural is now lost forever depriving patrons and visitors to the Botanic Gardens of its powerful message and symbolism. He instructed that the mural be removed, and this was done in a matter of a day. On Twitter, he describes himself as a seasoned public administrator and political activist who tweeted the following after the mural was removed.

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At the time of the complaints from a few people on Twitter about the mural, the Durban Botanical Gardens tweeted as follows about the history and background to the mural on display, which reveals that the mural was commissioned by the Ethekwini Municipality itself and one of its Public Museums, the KwaMuhle Museum. Mr. Ngcobo therefore not only destroyed something commissioned by his employer namely the Ethekwini Municipality but he did so without obtaining permission from the Municipal Council to do so!

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The random act of Mr. Ngobo raises many serious questions that require answers from him and the Ethekwini Municipality. These are the following:

  • How can an appointed municipal official usurp the power to take what I suspect is in effect an illegal decision, without due process and consultation and that without anybody even batting an eyelid?
  • What evidence does Mr. Ncogo, have to say that municipal protocol was not followed when the mural was put up 20 years ago, especially seeing that the Tweet from the Botanical Gardens indicate that the Ethewkini Municipality itself commissioned it?
  • Were the Trust of the Botanical Gardens consulted on the matter? Looks like not because the IOL article linked above quotes an anonymous employee who says they received an instruction from the Municipality to remove it.
  • What about the patrons of the Botanical Gardens? Were they consulted or don’t they have a say in the matter?
  • What about the person who created the mural? Was he/she consulted and what about the irreparable damage done to his/her intellectual and artistic property?
  • Was the matter submitted to the Ethekwini Metro Council for a decision? Clearly not given the timeline involved.

This act is a clear example of abuse of power by an official who I suspect did not have the necessary authority or delegation to do so. It speaks to how most senior officials at municipalities these days are beholden to the political ideology of the ruling political party, rather than serving impartially all the citizens at large and without fear or favour.

My municipal career started back in the Apartheid days and functionaries of those times are often unfairly accused of having been dictatorial or not following due process. I worked for some 18 years at municipalities in a senior management capacity, and remember, for example, the hoops the Margate Borough and I as its Corporate Service Manager had to jump through to obtain the necessary permission to demolish the old Margate town hall to make space for much needed public parking. It took months of applications to bodies like the Heritage Council and consultation with the public. No usurping of power to do what we thought was in the public interest. We followed the due process in the interest of transparency and proper governance.

Given the wide definition of property in our Constitution, this act is but one example of how as citizens we can be robbed of it without compensation if the Constitution is amended as the African National Congress is planning to do. Let this serve as a warning to us all.

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Coalition Fever: An Overview of the Picture in KwaZulu-Natal

INTRODUCTION

Following the 2016 local elections, South Africa is gripped with coalition fever, with 27 municipalities having hung councils where no one political party has more than 50% of the allocated seats.

Forming coalitions is an exercise in real politics ( politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises) and its therefore dangerous to predict beforehand the outcome of any coalition negotiations. Relying on what is speculated in the mainstream media is especially fraught with danger as evidenced in this article looking at what transpired in 2006 in Cape Town when parties were also faced with a hung council scenario Anatomy of a coalition coup: Are there lessons ahead of the August election?

In this series of blog posts I nevertheless looked at the possible coalitions in each of the 27 municipalities. In the first post the situation in the Metros was looked at ->  Coalition Fever: An Overview of the Metro Picture and in the second one the situation in the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo and North West Provinces -> Coalition Fever: An Overview of the picture in the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo and North West Provinces

In this third post I will look at all the hung councils in KwaZulu-Natal and in the last post possible coalitions in the Western and Northern Cape Provinces.

KWAZULU-NATAL PROVINCE

There are seven municipalities in the province with no outright majority party. The ANC has the most seats in five of these and the IFP in two, but the two parties are quite evenly matched in most of these municipalities.

The ANC needs the EFF as a coalition partner in most of these municipalities, assuming that ANC/IFP or ANC/DA coalitions are not on the table. There is also the chance that some councils may remain hung.

ENDUMENI

ELECTION RESULT AND VOTER SHIFTS

The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party 2011 % vote 2016 % vote % Shift
 ANC  51.35%  49.53% -1.82 %
 IFP  16.12%  30.52%  +14.40%
 DA  20.54% 15.59% -4.98%

COALITION PICTURE

  • Total seats: 13
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 7
  • Seat allocation: ANC 6 seats, IFP 4, DA 2, EFF 1
  • Scenario: The ANC short only 1 seat and the IFP 3.
  • Possible coalitions: The ANC could partner with any one of the IFP, DA or EFF. The IFP will have to partner with the ANC or alternatively both the DA and EFF if it wants to form a majority in this municipality.

CONCLUSION

The outcome will very much depend on which way the IFP will go with one newspaper article suggesting that they plan to cut out the ANC in six KwaZulu-Natal municipalities -> Talks about coalitions continue

NQUTHU

Nquthu Local Municipality is an administrative area in the uMzinyathi District of KwaZulu-Natal. Nquthu is an isiZulu name meaning ‘the back of the head’. Isandlwana, the site of the historic Anglo-Zulu War battle that took place on 22 January 1879, is a well-known tourist destination worldwide. Nquthu Local Municipality is located along the north-eastern boundary of the district. It borders onto the Endumeni, eMadlangeni, AbaQulusi, Ulundi, Nkandla and Msinga Local Municipalities. It is predominantly rural in nature, with expansive rural settlements being one of the major features.

ELECTION RESULT AND VOTER SHIFTS

The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party 2011 % vote 2016 % vote % Shift
 IFP  40.07%  44.09%  +4.02%
 ANC  40.36%  42.02%  +1.66%
 NFP  16.24% 5.96% -10.28%

COALITION PICTURE

  • Total seats: 33
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 17
  • Seat allocation:  IFP 15 seats, ANC 14, NFP 2, EFF 1, DA 1
  • Scenario: The IFP short 2 seats and the ANC 3.
  • Possible coalitions: The IFP could partner with the ANC or the NFP or both the EFF and DA. The ANC will have to form a coalition with the IFP or alternatively the NFP with the support of one more additional seat from either the EFF or DA.

CONCLUSION

The Nquthu municipality is the only one the NFP was allowed to contest as it paid the registration fee for this municipality on time -> NFP still has Nquthu, IEC .

Given the past history between the IFP and NFP the most likely coalition is between the IFP and DA/EFF. The NFP formed a coalition with the ANC in this municipality after the 2011 municipal election but this time around both parties will have to woo over either the EFF or DA to work with it.

Read this -> Consolation for NFP in Nquthu

ESCOURT/LOSKOP

Escourt/Loskop Local Municipality is located approximately 165km north-west of Durban and 400km south-east of Johannesburg. The National Road N3 also traverses the municipality on its western portion. The municipality comprises parts of the magisterial districts of Weenen and Estcourt; the informal settlements of Cornfields, Thembalihle and Mimosadale; Loskop and settlements around Weenen. Escourt is the largest commercial centre in the Midlands region. Weenen is a small agricultural town that is starting to emerge as a tourist destination.

This is a newly formed municipality through the amalgamation of the former uMtshezi and Imbabazane Local Municipalities

ELECTION RESULT AND VOTER SHIFTS

The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party 2011 % vote 2016 % vote % Shift
 ANC  Newly established municipality  49.48%  n/a
 IFP Newly established municipality  39.73%  n/a
 DA Newly established municipality 4.16% n/a

COALITION PICTURE

  • Total seats: 46
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 24
  • Seat allocation: ANC 23 seats, IFP 18, DA 2, AL JAMA-AH 2, EFF 1
  • Scenario: The ANC short only 1 seat and the IFP 6.
  • Possible coalitions: The ANC could form a coalition with the IFP, DA, AL JAMA or EFF. Only they can form a majority coalition in the municipality as the best that the IFP could do is to work with the DA, AL JAMA and the EFF to also hold 23 seats.

CONCLUSION

The possibility exist that this Council may remain hung.

eDUMBE

eDumbe Local Municipality is situated within the Zululand District Municipality in the north-western part of KwaZulu-Natal. The location of the head office is in Paulpietersburg, which is 50km north of Vryheid and 59km south of Mkhondo (previously Piet Retief).

ELECTION RESULT AND VOTER SHIFTS

The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party 2011 % vote 2016 % vote % Shift
 ANC  27.61%  50.65%  +23.04%
 DA  4.44%  25.26%  +20.82%
 IFP  16.03% 15.57% -0.46%

COALITION PICTURE

  • Total seats: 16
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 9
  • Seat allocation: ANC 8 seats, DA 5, IFP 3
  • Scenario: The ANC short 1 seat and the DA 4.
  • Possible coalitions: Only the ANC can form a majority coalition in eDumbe by working with the DA or IFP. The best the DA can do is to match the 8 seats of the ANC by working with the IFP.

CONCLUSION

This is one of the municipalities that the NFP controlled after the 2011 municipal elections. In 2016 the possibility exist that the Council may remain hung.

ABAQULUSI

AbaQulusi Local Municipality is a local municipality in Zululand in the KwaZulu-Natal province. It is named after the AbaQulusi, a Zulu clan whose descendants live in the vicinity of Vryheid, Utrecht, eDumbe and eNgoje.

ELECTION RESULT AND VOTER SHIFTS

The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party 2011 % vote 2016 % vote % Shift
 ANC  38.52%  46.22%  +7.7%
 IFP  35.01%  42.14%  +7.13%
 DA  6.65% 7.13% +0.7%

COALITION PICTURE

  • Total seats: 44
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 23
  • Seat allocation: ANC 21 seats, IFP 19, DA 3, EFF 1
  • Scenario: The ANC short 2 seats and the IFP 4.
  • Possible coalitions: The ANC could work with the IFP or DA. The IFP on the other hand will have to work with both the DA and EFF.

CONCLUSION

The outcome will very much depend on which way the IFP will go with one newspaper article suggesting that they plan to cut out the ANC in six KwaZulu-Natal municipalities -> Talks about coalitions continue

JOZINI

Jozini Local Municipality is located in northern KwaZulu-Natal and borders Swaziland and Mozambique. The Lebombo Mountains and Makhatini Flats provide a diverse and beautiful terrain rich in local resources, including water features and fossil sites. Both Ndumu and Mkuzi Game Reserves can be found straddling the borders of the Jozini Municipality.

ELECTION RESULT AND VOTER SHIFTS

The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party 2011 % vote 2016 % vote % Shift
 ANC  49.84%  47.88%  -1.96%
 IFP  39.58%  46.18%  +6.6%
 EFF  – 1.99% +1.99%

COALITION PICTURE

  • Total seats: 40
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 21
  • Seat allocation: ANC 19 seats, IFP 18, EFF 1, DA 1, Independent 1
  • Scenario: The ANC short 2 seats and the IFP 3.
  • Possible coalitions: The ANC could form a coalition with the IFP or any two of the EFF, DA or the independent councillor. The IFP can partner with the ANC or the EFF/DA/Independent.

CONCLUSION

The IFP seems to want to cut out the ANC in as many of the hung councils in KwaZulu-Natal as possible. The most probable coalition therefore is that of the IFP and the EFF/DA/Independent.

Read this -> DA could be kingmaker in KZN and KZN coalition cards close to the chests .

MTUBATUBA

Mtubatuba Local Municipality is situated along the northern coastal belt of KwaZulu-Natal and in the south-eastern corner of the uMkhanyakude District Municipality. Mtubatuba is located roughly 200km north of Durban and 55km north of the Richards Bay/Empangeni metropole along the N2 National Route. Mtubatuba has developed from a railway siding into a strong sub-regional commercial, service, transport and administrative centre for the entire north-eastern Zululand region.

ELECTION RESULT AND VOTER SHIFTS

The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party 2011 % vote 2016 % vote % Shift
 IFP  39.88%  44.86%  +4.98%
 ANC  40.86%  43.98%  +3.12%
 DA  3.82% 3.82% +2.81%

COALITION PICTURE

  • Total seats: 40
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 21
  • Seat allocation:  IFP 18 seats, ANC 18, DA 2, EFF 1, AIC 1
  • Scenario: Both the IFP and ANC short 3 seats.
  • Possible coalitions: The IFP and ANC could partner with one another or alternatively the DA and one or both of the EFF or AIC.

CONCLUSION

The IFP seems to want to cut out the ANC in as many of the hung councils in KwaZulu-Natal as possible. The most probable coalition therefore is that of the IFP and the DA/EFF.

THE NEXT BLOG POST

In the last post in this series on municipal coalitions I will look at the situation in the Western and Northern Cape Provinces.

WORD OF THANKS

Thanks to the IEC and Paul Berkowitz for the pictures used in this series of blog posts. Paul wrote an excellent summary on the coalition picture outside of the Metros which could be read here ->  Coalition politics: what’s possible outside of the metros .