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IT’S ROTHSCHILD – NOT RHODES!        posted 29 December 2015

Those behind the Rhodes Must Fall campaign are barking up the wrong tree. If they are so outraged by the scholarships which Rhodes bequeathed, then theyshould be going after Rhodes’s banker – Nathaniel de Rothschild.

 As historian Niall Ferguson points out, ‘it is usually assumed that Rhodes ownedDe Beers, but this was not the case. De Rothschild was a bigger shareholder thanRhodes himself. By 1899 the Rothschild stake was twice that of Rhodes,’ (Empire,p. 225).

 Rhodes was no more than the front man of British imperial interests. Just as theBritish East India Company provided the premise for British rule in India, soRhodes’s De Beers and Goldfields companies provided the business platformfor the extension of British imperial interests in Southern Africa.

CLEAN AUDIT FINDINGS QUERIED            posted 5 December 2015 

News that Durban Metro has received a ‘clean audit’ from the Auditor-General is surprising. On 29 January 2015, in the Council, the Auditor-General expressed concern at Durban’s mounting  debt, noting that it had increased from R1,99 billion in 2013 to R2,01 billion in 2014. He stated – quote – “the recoverability of these amounts is doubtful.”

He also was critical of under-spending on the Capital Budget by R505,36 million. He expressed concern that regulations requiring competitive bids for goods and services in excess of R200,000 were being flouted and noted – quote – “inadequate monitoring and oversight controls” had resulted in deviations from the tender process. 

Given those critical findings made just 10 months ago , it is difficult to accept that somehow, with the debt still in place and more incidents of corruption having been uncovered, suddenly Durban qualifies for a clean audit.

POPULATION REGISTRATION ACT IS BACK     - posted 3 December 2015

The Population Registration Act passed in 1950 was the cornerstone of the policy of apartheid. All citizens were classified by race. As such, the Act served as the premise of legislation concerning job reservation.  

But unlike the ANC, the Nat government did not quantify the allocation of jobs. While Clive Witherspoon (Mercury, November 27)is quite correct in stating that the ANC’s BEE and affirmative action policies are no different from apartheid, the reality is that they actually go much further than apartheid. 

Not only has the ANC reinstated the Population Registration Act in that racial reference is required in all official documentation, but through the Employment Equity Act, the ANC has placed each South African in a demographic quota box. 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the employment targets of eThekwini Municipality which allocates jobs in terms of provincially prescribed demographic statistics: 82% of posts are reserved for Africans; 10% for Indians; 6% for whites and 2% for coloureds. The prescription also entails gender quotas.  

Currently there are 2,099 unfilled vacancies across Metro departments. It has also been officially conceded that the rigidity of recruitment policies is holding up the filling of posts. From that it is obvious why service delivery and governance is collapsing. Racial quotas clearly enjoy priority. Yet the stated aim of the Employment Equity policy, ironically, is the elimination of ‘unfair discrimination.’  

Whilst the ANC crows about the marvellous constitution it has given the country, its apartheid-era Population Registration Act policies make a mockery of the line in the Preamble of the constitution which promises ‘to free the potential of each person.’


2015 – THE YEAR SA BECAME A BANANA REPUBLIC        -posted 3 December 2015

 Future history books will mark 2015 as the year South Africa became a Banana Republic.  

The latest shameful occurrence of a political upstart unseating KZN premier Mchunu in total defiance and contravention of parliamentary protocol is typical of the kind of behaviour found in tin-pot dictatorships.  

But this is not really surprising given the antics that are now commonplace in theNational Assembly:

*EFF members defying dress code and getting away with it;

* hooligan behaviour by EFF members;

*a president whose façade of chuckles fails to mask his incompetence and unsuitability

for the post;

* a president who prioritises the shambles that the ANC has become ahead of the  interests of the country;

* a president who remains in denial of the expenditure of R246 million of taxpayers’money on his private abode and who now wants R4 billion spent on a private jet for himself. 

Banana republics are failed states where government has become a system of theft, corruption and dishonesty; where failure is blamed on transformation –meaning cadre deployment – not having been fast enough; where billions in taxpayers’ money is repeatedly ploughed into failed or failing state enterprises such as Eskom and SAA;  where the once efficient Post Office is no longer a reliable service provider; where the economy is in decline and where the Rand has lost 20% of its value to the US dollar in a single year.


TRANSFORMATION THE CAUSE OF SAA’S WOES        posted 25 November 2015 

Khaya Buthelezi’s claim that the untransformed state of SAA lies at the heart of chairpersonDudu Myeni’s woes (Business Report, November 18) is an outrageous red herring. 

By his paranoid obsession with coerced racial representivity, namely, transformation, Buthelezi completely ignores Myeni’s unilateral attempt to renegotiate the Airbus deal. By seeking to reverse the lease of ten A320 aircraft for five A330 aircraft, Myeni would incur an additional cost of R1,5 billion – on top of the billions SAA has already swallowed in taxpayer bailouts.

 Myeni’s unilateral insistence in pursuing that deal along with her vacuous rationale has alienated those who actually have expertise in airline management. It is her lack of proficiency that lies at the heart of the drama that is destabilising SAA’s management. And the reason for that is the policy of so-called transformation, which translated means cadre deployment. It’s also the reason for the mismanagement that troubles the Post Office, Eskom and other SOEs. Also of note is that by his crass reference to sections of the private sector as ‘dark forces,’Buthelezi leaves no doubt as to his socialist ideological mindset.

 There is no smear campaign against Myeni, as he contends. Just a call for adherence to proper corporate governance. By defying that Myeni has only herself to blame.


IS EE POLICY UNDERMINING GOVERNANCE?                        posted 24 November 2015

 A 48 page report on Employment Equity (EE)  tabled at the meeting of the eThekwini Economic Development and Planning committeeon November 19 raises questions about the efficacy of service delivery and governance.

According to provincially prescribed employment targets, 82% of posts in  eThekwini Metro are reserved for Africans, 10%for Indians, 6% for whites and 2% for coloureds.

The eThekwini EE report noted that there were 2,099 unfilled vacancies across Metro departments. At the same time itconceded that a skills shortage and the rigidity of recruitment policies posed challenges to the implementation of EE.This raises the following questions:

* Has governance and service delivery become a hostage to prescribed racial employment ratios?

* Are skills available which cannot be employed because they breach a specific  racial quota level?

* Are careers in local government being denied by those eminently qualified because of EE prescription?

* How is this situation compatible with the stated EE aim of ‘the elimination of unfair discrimination?’

* How does EE policy square with the Preamble of the constitution, which aims ‘to free the

   potential of each person’ within a society based on non-racialism?


FREEDOM CHARTER BELONGS IN A MUSEUM            posted November 20, 2015

Thabani Khumalo’s fawning defence of the 1955 Freedom Charter (Daily News, November 18) is hard to alignwith his claim to being a strategist in a think tank.

 By posing the question whether the Freedom Charter is still relevant today, Khumalo displays a woeful ignoranceof history. This is further reinforced by his assertion that the Charter needs to be ‘updated’ because we live in an ‘ever-changing world.’

 Whatever nostalgic attachments some may have for the Freedom Charter, there are certain realities about it whichneed to be contextualised. First, ideologically it is a socialist document drafted at the height of the Cold War by arch communistJoe Slovo. Second, its statist character and objectives have been discredited and rendered obsolete by the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe 25 years ago.

 The meltdown of communist economies occurred precisely because the strictures of state control and the denial of freedom ofchoice and competition were no longer sustainable in a global economy that is increasingly wedded to free enterprise. Yet the tenets of the Freedom Charter place the state as the sole agent and purveyor of goods, services and remunerative employment. Such a system prohibits private enterprise because it threatens the ideal of coerced socio-economic uniformity and its corollary, mediocrity and stagnation. 

Cuba and Venezuela are two current examples of the retardation which Freedom Charter ideology produces.  Under the ANC South Africa is already experiencing a loss of foreign investment as a result of inflexible labour policies and racially prescriptive codes as regards the conduct of trade and industry. 

Khumalo cites the failure of the ANC to address the Freedom Charter objective of land belonging to the people as threatening the survival of the ANC. Like Zuma, he seems to prioritise the survival of the ANC ahead of the survival of South Africa. Here his thinking  needs to be subjected to a cold shower of reality: if private property rights are revoked as the Freedom Charter envisages, not only will food production crash as it has in Zimbabwe, but South Africa’s road to failed state status will be irreversible.  

The Freedom Charter belongs in a museum as an exhibit which has been eclipsed by history.

WHY RACISM PERSISTS   -posted 20 November 2015

As a Rhodes scholar and an academic, it is surprising that Eusebius McKaiser should ask why 20 years after the ending of apartheid there is still a need to discuss racism(Mercury, 13 November). After all, the evidence is overwhelming: the inherent differences in multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies, particularly where minoritiesand majorities are in contention, give rise to tensions and  preferences which, depending on circumstances, are termed discriminatory.

Ideally, one would want to eliminate such social attitudes. As US Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2007, ‘the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ But, sadly, this will not happen in South Africa as long as quota systems, racial profiling and so-calledtransformation are practised.  Coercive racial representivity does not promote harmony. Instead, it promotes the law of unintended consequences – resentment, insecurity,resistance and, thus, racism.

From the published extract of McKaiser’s book it is clear that he is committed to restructuring society around racial representivity and sees the lack of such representivityas racism.  Significantly though, he does not get into a froth about the legitimacy of racially exclusive bodies such as black lawyers, accounts, etc.

 What seems to be eluding McKaiser is that transformation or egalitarian coercion is not going to put an end to racial feelings. As Woodrow Wilson once said, ‘you cannotfind your way to reform through the forces that made reform necessary in the first place.’ On the contrary, transformation is triggering new animosities – which McKaiser termsracism- in individuals within minority groups who previously never had racial feelings. But these now come to the fore because they now find their jobs are either threatened ortheir path to progress is halted on account of representivity of their  pigmentation. Or worse still, employment for them is a non-starter because quotas in terms or racialrepresentivity enjoy priority over merit.

 Equality can be legislated but not its outcomes




The debate about Gandhi and the speculation as to  the consequences of Desai and Vahed’s book,

The South African Gandhi – stretcher-bearer of Empire, (Mercury, November 4) seems to have contributed

confusion as to the purpose of history and historians.


Historians are not in the business of servicing or embellishing established profiles or legends. Nor should they

be in the business of ‘building a socially cohesive society, as Dasarath Chetty suggests. Accounts of the past which

are premised on agendas or ideological objectives are hagiographies, not histories.


The reason for the critical reception of Desai and Vahed’s  study is that all previous accounts of Gandhi were contextualised withinthe periods of decolonisation and post-colonialism. As such, they portrayed Gandhi, inter alia, as a freedom fighterand ignored or were selective about his earlier historical footprints. Thus, much of the published image of Gandhi unfortunately has been exploited and continues to be exploited  for a variety of purposes.


As a result, prescriptive images of Gandhi have come to be entrenched in the public mind. Inevitably, disturbing them and challengingthem invites controversy. Nonetheless, it is the duty of every generation to reconsider and to re-interpret the past. The origin of the word ‘history’ refers to the process of enquiry. As such, history, as EH Carr concluded, is ‘an unending dialogue between the past and the present.’


In tracking Gandhi’s time in South Africa (1893-1914), premised on his own Collected Works, his newspaper, Indian Opinion and unpublished archivalmaterial, Desai and Vahed’s research shows is that during that time Gandhi fervently endorsed the British Empire and embraced social

class distinctions. He discriminated between merchant class Indians and indentured labourer Indians and generally regarded Africans with disdain. That circumstances later caused Gandhi to modify his views is not in dispute nor are his later achievements.


Academically, Desai and Vahed’s work needs to be applauded because it scaled a frontier of understanding and knowledge. In so doing, the authorsserved the discipline of History loyally.



THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH                                posted 7 October 2015


Whilst DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard has touched off a firestorm within the parameters of political correctness

by her unwitting endorsement of certain aspects of life under PW Botha compared to the state of the country

under Jacob Zuma,  the unintended consequences of her political faux pas have focused attention on the inconvenient

truth about the elephant in the room.


Historically every generation needs to revise its view of the past. In South Africa’s case, circumstances and daily life

have made that process unavoidable and undeniable. The often violent, almost daily protests against the lack of service delivery testify to that. From the efficacy of governance,  quality of education, control of crime to the value of the Rand, only the ideologically impervious will attempt to insist that the boast of a ‘better life for all’ is being realised. 


The hysteria Kohler-Barnard has provoked is in itself indicative of the sensitivity that prevails over the direction South

Africa is headed under those who claim to have liberated it. Like the silence that has greeted the publication of

RW Johnson’s latest book How Long Can South Africa Survive, comparisons of ANC-ruled South Africa with what prevailed

before 1994, sadly, amount to political heresy.


In that history is life’s teacher, such an eyes wide-shut approach is both unhelpful and absurd. It is also symptomatic of immaturityas a society. All periods of history contain stains of tragedy and ill-considered decisions. For those very reasons they ought to becritically examined in the hope that the ills of the past may be avoided or at least tempered by awareness. At the same time, however,the successes of the past need to be recognised and sustained rather than ignored  and even neglected for reasons of political correctness.


REED DANCE IS NOT A LOCAL GOVT RESPONSIBILITY           posted 10 September 2015


The criticisms of KZN DA leader Cllr Zwakele Mncwango for objecting to the expenditure of

ratepayers’ money on councillors attending the maidens reed dance (Mercury, September 9),

highlights the faultline that runs through our political landscape.


Traditional matters such as the reed dance are neither the business nor the responsibility of local

government. The practice of customary law and customs by communities as specified in Chapter

12 of the constitution, is the responsibility of the House of Traditional Leaders as provided for

by national and provincial legislation.


Tapping eThekwini ratepayers for funding to attend such events is simply not permissible.

Moreover, applying Rule of Order 18 for such funding so as to railroad it through on the

grounds that it is urgent, adds insult to injury.


Yet it would appear that there are those in the Council executive who regard such funding as a right.

They would do well to remember that when one occupies high public office one needs to be

conscious at all times that one represents all the people equally and that neither sectional nor

ideological interests should not influence decision-making.


COMMONWEALTH GAMES: GAIN OR GAMBLE?                posted 9 August 2015


THE large-scale, ratepayer-funded advertisements placed by eThekwini municipality in our local press are nothing more than speculative spin-doctoring

on the outcomes of Durban hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games.


The sugar-coating on these advertising features includes: an estimated R20 billion injection into the national economy; ticket sales of some 1,3 million and the

recruitment of 10,000 volunteers over the 11 day Games period the experience of which will “increase their future employment prospects.” It all reads like

a shower of benefits coming Durban’s way which we should fervently embrace.


Research on the hosting of mega-sporting events, however, produces a very different picture. Whereas mayor James Nxumalo indulges in counting the chickens

before they have hatched, he would do well to focus on the costs involved, as the constitutional principles of accountability and transparency advise. Significantly,

nowhere in the mayor’s promotion of Durban’s Games bid does he broach the topic of costs. The reason is clear: it is not politically expedient to do so.


Whilst the “Legacy” sites on the internet are gushing about what they deem as the positive impacts of hosting mega-sporting events, they are silent about the

massive cost over-runs. The costs of the Commonwealth Games held in Manchester in 2002 were 120% over budget. The costs of the 2012 London Olympics rose

from an initial £ 2,4 billion to £ 11 billion. The cost of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games held in 2014 rose 50% from £373 million to £543 million. And of that sum,

according to The Scotsman of 7 August 2015,  £424,5 million was taxpayer-funded.


Much is made by Legacy 2014 in a 60 page analysis of the economics of the Glasgow Games, it would seem, so as to boost Scottish national sentiment ahead of the

September 2014 Scottish referendum on independence. In the executive summary it claimed that Scotland’s economy benefited to the tune of  £740 million.  But in later pages

that figure was revised downwards in terms of what are referred to as “displacement” and “deadweight” statistics. Displacement concerns local residents who would have spent

money locally anyway. Deadweight refers to visitors who would have come to Scotland irrespective of the hosting of the Games.


In net terms, then, the overall benefit  of the Games to Scotland’s economy was put at just £73 million with Glasgow itself netting  £37 million. When those statistics are

compared to the cost borne by the taxpayer of  £424,5 million, it is hardly a rosy return. As one analyst stated, it amounts to “public pain for private gain.”


So, what are the gains which Glasgow is said to have made from the Games? According to the official Games website there are six legacies:

Accessibility in terms of improved transportation; promotion of physical activity; encouraging support for local business; appreciating volunteerism; promotion of Glasgow’s

international profile; greening Glasgow.


Aside from whatever tangible benefits may result from improved transportation and greening, the other four “legacies” are merely aspirations without any certainty of

realisation. Nonetheless, Glaswegians were urged to “take home memories” and to be “inspired by a world class sporting event.” Such rhetoric begs the question as to how

that translates into economic benefit and upliftment. In real terms, of course, it is nothing more than fanciful jargon. Besides, as academic research of mega-sporting events shows,

they are “implausible” as catalysts for health and wealth improvement and that sports-driven urban regeneration is a fallacy.


“New facilities and pledges of a physically active Glasgow are largely targeted at the few at the expense of the many,” notes the Glasgow Games Monitor of 2014. Durban is already

experiencing that in the form of the Moses Mabida stadium. Magnificent though it is, it is grossly under-utilised and costs R6 million a month to maintain. By hoping to secure the vote of the

Commonwealth Games Federation on September 2 as the host for 2022, mayor Nxumalo is gambling with ratepayers’ money that has yet to be earned and,in all likelihood, saddling

Durban up with more debt




KZN DA leader Zwakele Mncwango bravely broaches a subject which has long been

avoided because of its historical, political and gender sensitivity (Mercury, 6 August).


In calling for a clarity on the roles and responsibilities of traditional leadership so as

to be in harmony with the principles of the constitution, Mncwango has adduced into

debate an aspect of life which has been controversial for over 160 years in Natal.


The perpetuation of African customary and traditional roles and practices in this

province was institutionalised by Theophilus Shepstone following the report of the

Locations Commission in March 1847. As a result the British government endorsed

the recommendation that Africans be subject '”to their own laws through their chiefs”

in tandem with colonial laws. In an attempt to provide space and opportunity for

traditional African life, Shepstone set aside  a patchwork of more than twenty

parcels of land or locations, as they were called. This was widely resented by white

colonists who regarded the locations as fragmenting Natal and diminishing the

availability of labour.


As the late Professor Jeff Guy stated in his exhaustive study of Shepstone, arising from

“the evolution of locations into reserves into tribal authorities into homelands into traditional

authorities, claims are being made  by traditional leaders in contemporary South Africa to

rights and recognition in the name of deep, disrupted, but now revived and reclaimed

historical connections” (p. 521).


Thus, as Professor Guy notes, through clause 211 of the SA constitution,“concepts from South Africa’s

imperial and colonial past live on in the post-apartheid present” (p. 8). What Councillor Mncwango

is challenging from the standpoint of fairness, accountability and gender equality as provided for

in the constitution, is laudable.


But history has a strange way of repeating itself.  Just as the government before 1994 found it

expedient to cultivate traditional authorities in the form of homelands, so the ANC is exploiting

the same turf for political reasons. Paying amakhosi R5,000 each to attend the monthly meeting of

the eThekwini council, amounts to nothing more than using ratepayers’ money to buy votes.


NKANDLA: DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE            - posted 25 July 2015


The ‘finding’ by Cedric Frolick, chairman of the parliamentary committee on Nkandla, that

contractors inflated prices in the construction of Zuma’s private home, (Mercury, July 23),

rates as the latest threadbare attempt at defending the indefensible.


It is a universal reality that responsibility for approving construction costs of a private

dwelling is solely that of the owner. For Frolick and his ilk to attempt to blame contractors

for inflating prices on Zuma’s Nkandla abode is sheer nonsense and an insult to our collective



No amount of spin-doctoring by Frolick, Nhleko and the rest of the ANC can absolve Zuma from

the fact that he not only looted taxpayers’ money in constructing a private domain, but that as

the owner he was irresponsible in exercising how that money was spent.


History will ensure that Nkandla epitomises the poverty of Zuma’s presidency and, unfortunately,

along with it, the lowest point to date in South Africa’s existence.



 Subjugation and depredation have invariably characterised attempts at imposing ideological will. Certainly, as Ashwin Desai recounts (Mercury, June 30), British imperialism was not averse to using such means to achieve its ends.

Besides the sacking of Ondini during the Anglo-Zulu War, the massacre of Bhambatha and his 600 supporters in the Mome Gorge near Nkandhla  in June 1906 and the subsequent destruction of 7,000 Zulu homesteads which rendered 30,000 homeless, also ranks as a glaring example of the ferocity of British imperialism or ‘savagery,’ as Desai terms it. And what about the deaths of 26,000 Boers between 1900 and 1902  in British concentration camps?

However, for Desai to dismiss colonialism in its entirety on account of the sharp end of imperial practices renders him hostage to his own ideological moorings. By his endorsement of Walter Rodney and EP Thompson, who were both marxists, Desai shows that his intellectual perspective is not only subjective but that it is linked to a failed and thoroughly discredited ideology. Edward Said, presumably, also features on Desai’s list.

Just as it would be unreasonable to condemn all  of America  because its government in the 1970s resorted to the merciless use of chemicals in its attempt to carpet bomb North Vietnam into submission, the same reasoning applies in appraising British colonialism here in the 19th century. Moreover, the interpretation of history needs constant revision in the light of the evolution of events.

No system or era in history is without fault or blemish. While there can be no disputing of Desai’s narrative of the social and economic upheaval the Zulu experienced as a consequence of their political subjugation by the British, that experience needs to be contrasted with circumstances which prevailed before the onset of colonialism.


Was the hegemony of Shaka and Dingane preferable? Were prospects for change and development better? Would Zulus of the 21st century relish a return to pre-colonial conditions? Consideration of such questions needs to frame one’s thinking when seeking to cast a verdict on colonialism. As Niall Ferguson stated in 2008  in Empire: How Britain made the modern world: ‘There seems a plausible case that it enhanced global welfare.’




The double standards, selective morality and hypocrisy of the leadership of the ANC knows no bounds

as events concerning the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s evasion of justice illustrate.


On orders from Zuma himself, Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against

humanity and genocide, was allowed to escape arrest. Yet at the same time, while failing to act against a notorious oppressor of human rights,  the ANC continues to milk propaganda mileage out of the crackdown by the Vorster government on riots and violence in Soweto in June 1976. Such nauseating double standards and selective morality.


Bashir is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The number of victims of apartheid

during its 46 year rule is a mere fraction compared to Bashir’s bludgeoning regime. His tyranny is completely

at odds with the ANC’S Freedom Charter plea for “the rights of all the people of Africa to independence and self-government” and the ANC’s pledge to fight for freedoms for all.


By failing to deliver this tyrant into the hands of the ICC, the leadership of the ANC along with its continued

support for that other tyrant, Robert Mugabe,  has demonstrated that it prioritises hypocrisy above

credibility. If past tragedies such as Sharpville and Soweto are worthy of commemoration, then it behoves

the ANC to exercise moral consistency by condemning current oppressors and violaters of human rights.




At a time of increasing evidence that expenditure levels by the ANC-ruled eThekwini municipality are

not sustainable (see Daily News, June 10), it simply beggars belief that mayor Nxumalo wants to spend

R2,850,000 on a youth business summit as part of  a Youth Day commemoration.


This sum is on top of R2,460,000 for marquees, refreshments, promotional material, sound system, entertainment

etc.  In all, the mayor’s proposed youth benefit scheme  exceeds R7 million. Yet R2 million of that is purely to hire a venue

and to host a conference and a dinner. This is absolutely preposterous.


While not against measures to promote the wellbeing of this country’s youth, the first lesson they need to learn from

mayor Nxumalo is that profligate spending is the path to poverty and penury.


Predictably, opposition to this obscene extravagance at the June meeting of the Economic Development Committee

was  met with the retort the parents of African children were marginalised by apartheid and therefore denied such

vocational opportunities.


More than two decades after apartheid ended such rhetoric is unworthy of comment. Nonetheless, it accurately reflects

Margaret Thatcher’s definition  of socialism: a system that works only until it runs out of other people’s money.


eThekwini’s appointment with a cash-strapped destiny is assuredly being hastened by the profligate spending practices of mayor Nxumalo and his cohorts. Watch this space!


FINANCING CLLRS’ FUNERALS                                                        posted June 13, 2015


As a member of the Economic Planning and Development Committee, the late Cllr Judy Mulqueeny of the ANC

always demonstrated modesty and frugality when participating in committee debate. Her passion was to

work in the interests of the poor and the needy, a point of which I was made aware on two occasions when,

on an inter-ward basis, she phoned me concerning poverty alleviation matters.


Whilst there is nothing improper about honoring Cllr Mulqueeny with a civic funeral, budgeting some

R200,000 of ratepayers’ money for such an event  is outrageous and an insult to Mulqueeny’s sense

of frugality. It also appears to have become a policy of the ANC to spend lavish sums of public money

on funerals for fallen comrades – current and retired.


Given the vast financial backing the ANC has at its disposal, such funeral expenses should come from

their own coffers and not from the public purse.




In questioning whether black captains of industry can turn around the declining manufacturing sector, Tumelo Chipfupa

(Business Report, June 10) fails to enquire why this sector is in decline.  

Part of the answer lies overseas. Cheaper production in India and China has played havoc with a range of local manufacturing from ceramics, shoes, textiles to electronics. And that contagion is not confined to South Africa. Manufacturing industries are also in decline in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia. Trade union inflexibility and strikes account for industrial stagnation and decline both here and in Australia. 

But in South Africa there is an additional factor which is not only unique to this country but which attempts to ignore a primary historical experience: the elevation of individuals to the ranks of industry captains based purely on race. Historically, this is a no-brainer.  

While governments can preside over conditions that create equal opportunities, they cannot ordain equal outcomes. Initiative and enterprise cannot be legislated. They are individual traits which have resulted not only in great inventions but in sustained production and benefit to society.  

The foundations of England’s industrial revolution were laid 250 years before the era itself. The English gentry adopted

the habit of turning their younger sons out of the manor house to seek their fortunes as apprentices to merchants and craftsmen in the towns. That experience created the bedrock upon which manufacturing and industry came to  be revolutionised ( see George

Trevelyan, English Social History, p. 125).


The backbone of South Africa’s industry and manufacturing was established between the two world wars. Individuals with a passion for initiative and enterprise such as Ernest Oppenheimer, Jan van Eck and Hendrik van der Byl founded industries

without which this country would have remained something of a backwater with limited opportunity. They did so without any legal framework that entitled them or empowered them. And their success was based on perseverance and application.  

Obsession with skin pigmentation has increasingly hobbled progress and service delivery  since 1994. Cosmetic transformation does not work and can never work. History, as life’s teacher, has demonstrated that -  particularly in Africa.




ABDICATING TO ANARCHY?            posted May 29, 2015


The violence and vandalism perpetrated by elements of the taxi industry in Durban this past week bordered on anarchy.


The abject abdication of the city’s ruling political leadership to the demands of this unelected cabal is significant in several



One, by failing to apply the law to the perpetrators of violence and vandalism, it has rubbished the constitutional principle of one law, one nation. Two, it has legitimised minority rule. Three, it has sanctioned violence and intimidation as a means of obtaining demands and of ensuring freedom from prosecution. Four, it makes nonsense of the mayor’s claim that such conduct will not be tolerated. The latest outrage by taxi elements is the fifth in the past eleven months. The mayor’s credibility is in shreds.


How does this square with the boast that by 2030 Durban will be Africa’s most caring and livable city?


  HISTORY FAVOURS SOUTH COAST TOURISM                posted 25 April 2015


The revamp of Scottburgh’s Blue Marlin hotel heralds a revival of the tourist appeal of the South Coast which has historical roots going back more than a century. As Colleen Dardagan remarked in the Network supplement of April 15,the South Coast is indeed ‘an old trophy in need of a good polishing.’ 

Following Natal Mercury  editor John Robinson’s  tour of the South Coast on horseback during March and April 1861, he made the following prediction about Scottburgh: ‘Imaginatively one realises the day when marts, warehouses, shops and private dwellings shall make this spot a conspicuous feature on the coast and when wealthy sheep farmers of the uplands with enervated sugar planters on the coast shall fly to Scottburghin pursuit of pleasure and health’ (Mercury, 9 May 1861). Poor roads and the lack of bridges needed to span the 26 rivers which traverse the South Coast from the Mlazi to the Mzimkulu, however, deterred and delayed development of tourism and the hospitality industry until the last years of the nineteenth century.  

But in May 1894, when the Natal government was voting funds for the construction of a railway line down the South Coast, Thomas Keir Murray, in his capacity as minister of Lands and Works in John Robinson’s ministry, made what turned out to be a very accurate prediction: ‘The beautiful spots along the seaside in a few years’ time will develop into favourite seaside resorts.’  

The extension of the railway line down the South Coast from Isipingo, which had been the southern terminus since 1880, proved crucial in the opening up of the South Coast. February 22, 1897 saw the arrival of the first train at Umkomaas from Durban. September 22, 1897 saw the railway bridge across the Umkomaas opened to traffic. But a bridge spanning the Umkomaas for wagon and motorised vehicles was not opened until May 5, 1923 thus ending over sixty years of reliance on a punt to cross the river. Port Shepstone’s link with Durban was finally secured when the first train arrived at the station on the north bank of the Mzimkulu on July 26, 1901. 

The coming of the iron road, as railways were called, initiated a scramble in property development from Umkomaas to Port Shepstone. South of the Mzumbe river a number of residential sites were reported to have been acquired by wealthy folk from the Johannesburg area at prices up to 100% above market value.  

By 1900 the  predictions of the attractiveness of the South Coast as a tourist and holiday mecca became a reality with hotels in Umkomaas, Umzinto, Scottburgh and Port Shepstone competing keenly for visitors. Their quest was aided by the Natal Government Railways which, in 1899, published a 36 page souvenir booklet extolling the sites and scenery of the South Coast. No such booklet on the North Coast was published. Indeed, the North Coast was described in the 15 May 1893 issue of the Natal Farmers Magazine as ‘a wilderness of everything but sugar cane.’ Until the 1960s when competition from North Coast resorts began to assert itself, the South Coast was the destination of choice for holiday-makers.  

The advertising columns of the Mercury witnessed ongoing competition between the various locations on the South Coast in their respective bids to promote tourism using famous British holiday resorts as analogies. In 1904 Port Shepstone was described as ‘the Blackpool of South Africa – the most beautiful resort of Natal.’ Umkomaas was referred to as ‘the Scarborough of Natal – the queen of watering places.’ Park Rynie promoted itself as ‘the Hastings of the South Coast.’ The four hotels in Port Shepstone attempted to outdo each other in terms of amenities and proximity to the beach with the Port Shepstone Hotel appearing to have the advantage over the others because  not only did it tick all the boxes, but it was the only hotel with electric light!  

Scottburgh Hotel was advertised as a health resort in 1900 which was placed within one minute of the beach. From a gender point of view, Umkomaas was the most progressive. In 1905, three of the village’s four hotels were managed by women – Mmes. Salmon, Humphreys and Williams. And until her retirement in 1904, Georgina Nelson had managed the Drift Hotel in Umkomaas for nearly 40 years in addition to serving as postmistress.  

Despite laws controlling fauna and flora, the frontier nature of the lower South Coast in those times was apparent from an advertisement placed by the Imperial Hotel of Port Shepstone in 1906. In addition to offering various leisure activities such as boating, fishing and bathing, it boasted ‘good shooting in the immediate neighbourhood.’

In that history repeats itself, the Blue Marlin’s revamp may well herald the return of a virtuous cycle for tourism on the South Coast.

 [This article is derived from research conducted for my forthcoming book Sugar and Settlers: A history of the Natal South Coast 1850-1910]

STATUE REMOVAL: SYMPTOM OF AN IMMATURE SOCIETY                          posted 13 April 2015

 Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande’s  suggestion (Daily News, 8 April) that colonial monuments be placed in museums amounts to an attempt to marginalise history and, in effect, to airbrush it out of the daily conscience and view of society. Besides, it is not practical to relocate most of the monuments in museums without damaging them; nor do museums have space for such structures. 

By endorsing the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes (Daily News, 9 April), UCT vice –chancellor, Dr Max Price, wittingly or unwittingly, has lent credence  to the actions of a bunch of uneducated, vulgar  parvenus. Instead, he should have seen to it that the association of their  ilk with UCT was summarily terminated. Price’s obsequious response  and that of his fellow travellers to the so-called outcry against historical symbols illustrates the basic malady of South African society – a lack of discipline and resolution. 

Instead, the likes of Max Price see fit to endorse vulgar populism. As Tony Leon predicted more than a decade ago, standards will be lowered to you. Thanks to Max Price and his sort, that moment, it would seem, has arrived.  

What appears to have been ignored at this time is that the assault on historical symbols amounts to an assault on our national flag. Certain of the colours of our flag are derived from our colonial and republican past. The assault on our historical monuments, by implication, is an assault on the heritage reflected in our national flag. This shameful and evil vendetta against our heritage shows that South Africa is not only a very immature society but also that it appears to be dominated by cultural philistines.


SHAKA AND COLONIALISM IN PERSPECTIVE            posted 4 April 2015

When original, recorded sources are slender and emanate from only a small group of witnesses, there is bound to be controversy amongst later generations as to historical interpretation. So it is with the status and stature of Shaka which is attested to by the remarks of Mahlafuna Mkhize (The Mercury, April 1) in response to my letter of March 31.  

Nowhere did I refer to Shaka as a ‘monster,’ as he claims. I did not even call him a ‘tyrant.’ Instead I referred to his ‘violent hegemony.’ Such a claim is borne out by the facts. Shaka’s conflict with the Ndwandwe in 1818-1819 was hardly waged with kid-gloves. Historians John Wright and Carolyn Hamilton refer to Shaka as a man ‘skill, energy and ruthlessness’ (Duminy and Guest, 1989, p. 68). Brookes and Webb (1965, p. 13)  ascribed Shaka’s ‘essential greatness’ in part to his ‘ruthless vigour and pitiless determination.’ Dr Andrew Smith’s diary entry of 31 March 1832 recounts incidents of Shaka’s ‘cruelty’ which Smith gleaned from local, oral accounts during his visit to Dingane. The massacre  Shaka ordered after the death of Queen Nandi was  to rid himself of political opponents (Wright and Hamilton, in Duminy and Guest, 1989, p. 73). 

Reference to such characteristics are not meant to ‘demonise’ Shaka, as Mkhize asserts. But to ignore them would be historically disingenuous. An appraisal of Winston Churchill which omitted to mention his key role promoting the disastrous opening of a front in the Dardanelles  in 1915 and the subsequent slaughter of 46,000 Allied troops at Gallipoli, would also be historically misleading.  

Mkhize’s endorsement of Julian Cobbing’s view on the subject of the mfecane is also misplaced. Carolyn Hamilton, in a seminar paper presented at Wits University in 1991, demolished Cobbing’s hypothesis that the violent expansion of the Zulu kingdom was not the cause of destabilisation in southern Africa in the 1820s. She pointed out that Cobbing’s attempt to blame the expansion of European settlement, commerce and slave trading  for the mfecane was a distortion of the facts based on imprecise periodisation. Major interaction between whites and blacks in Natal did not take place until the years of the Great Trek, a decade and more after Shaka’s death. John Wright (1995) concurs with that argument. 

Finally, it is nothing less than hypocritical to attempt to rubbish colonialism in its entirety. No system or era in history is without fault or blemish. Heritage, by definition, is the transmission of the experience, good and bad, warts and all, of a

previous time. The preamble of our Constitution urges that we ‘respect those who have worked  to build and develop our country.’  Therefore, it is not a case of ‘glorifying’ the colonial period, as Mkhize claims, but rather of being objective about it. Otherwise, Mr Mkhize should not correspond with The Mercury founded in 1852 and, as such, a product of the colonial era. Nor should he use English which the colonials brought to southern Africa.

COLONIALISM IN PERSPECTIVE                    posted 30 March 2015

 Besides the utterly  reprehensible defacing and vandalism of historical statues and monuments, what is equally appalling is the studied ignorance of people who either should know better or who allow populist ideology to chart their thinking (Mercury, March 27). 

Carolyn Hamilton’s book, Terrific Majesty, is not a history of Shaka but rather a history of the histories of how different communities perceived him. As such, it explores the evolution of an icon of tribalism.The only recorded sources on Shaka are those written by Henry Francis Fynn, who visited him in 1825 and 1826,and Dr Andrew Smith who visited Dingane in 1832.Both their accounts contain graphic details of the brutality of Shaka and Dingane and provide extensive evidence of mass executions. Attempts to play down the violence of their  hegemony are therefore disingenuous. Projecting Shaka as a ‘nation builder’ does not obscure the fact that in his quest to consolidate the Zulu as a tribe, Shaka’s depredation of other African communities amounted to ethnic cleansing. 

That said, the notion that colonialism was an act of theft, as Jabulani Sithole claims, is rank nonsense. The truth is that both blacks and whites arrived in Southern Africa by invasion and conquest.  Attempts to escape and to avoid the net of the slave raiders and traders, resulted in the southward migration of Africans from the tropical regions over centuries. That process resulted in  ongoing territorial conquest and occupation. Would Sithole term the dispossession of the lands of one African tribe by another as ‘theft?’ 

The real victims of land theft in Southern Africa were the hunter-gatherer San people. As a result of the southward migration of Bantu and the northward trekking of European settlers, the San were territorially marginalised almost to the point of extinction. 

Invasion and conquest marks the history of every continent and has resulted in the infusion of cultures and, in most cases, the transcending of frontiers of knowledge and expertise.   

What would Africa be like if colonialism had not occurred? The declining state of infrastructure and institutions and the return of disease since the ending of colonialism in Africa some 50 years ago provides the answer.



 Whilst Mercury editor Moya does acknowledge that the Soviet Union was not known for ‘an unbridled commitment to human rights,’ (March 18), his  attempt, nonetheless, to credit the role of communists for the kind of freedom that exists in South Africa today is historically flawed. 

The five freedoms enjoyed today – speech, press, association, movement and religion - were suppressed as a matter of policy by communists in all states they controlled. It is, therefore, a perversion of the truth to associate communists with freedom of any sort. 

In attempting to argue that the likes of JB Marks and Moses Kotane fought for the five freedoms which are constitutionally upheld today is to ignore the communist agenda which they embraced. Worldwide communists have always aimed at the imposition of socialism within a single party structure.  

Products of the Stalinist era, it is naïve in the extreme to imagine that Marks, Kotane, Slovo and all the other Red comrades simply wanted to get rid of apartheid. Their real aim was to impose communism on South Africa as part of the Leninist aim of a worldwide communist empire. 

Communism caused the most bloodshed in the twentieth century: 35 million victims under Lenin and Stalin in Russia; over 60 million victims under Mao Tse Tung in China; 3,5 million under Pol Pot in Cambodia; countless victims in Vietnam, Ethiopia, Cuba, Eastern Europe, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Tibet and elsewhere.  

Attempts to sanitise communists and their ideology are not only nauseating but intellectually dishonest.


Although transformation and revisionist thinking  has become holy writ, ANC spokesmen routinely fail to lead by example particularly in their references to the past. A  recent eulogy  by the minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa concerning the role of communist Russia during the ANC’s so-called struggle years (Mercury, March 2) is a case in point. 

More than twenty years after the collapse of communism in the USSR and in the light of overwhelming evidence concerningthe oppression and tyranny which was forcibly imposed on the people of Russia for 73 years, praise for the roleof the USSR in promoting freedom in South Africa is not only misplaced but amounts to a perversion of history. 

In attempting to extol the USSR’s role in the ‘anti-colonial struggle,’ Mthethwa ignores the fact that the USSR itself was a major coloniser having imposed soviet colonisation on half of Europe after World War 2. In Africa soviet communist oppression once reigned over Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique resulting in brutal human rights violations  

To see the 1917 communist seizure of power in Russia as providing ‘inspiration,’ for the struggle for freedom and justice as Mthethwa claims, simply beggars belief. As any informed student of history knows, the first thing  the communists did was to reject the outcome of the 1918 election in Russia, in which they scored only 25% of the vote, and to ban all other parties. Through the NKVD, later known as the KGB,  and the establishment of concentration camps known as gulags, they ruthlessly suppressed all political opposition. The freedom and justice of which Mthethwa glowingly writes, never existed in the USSR. On the contrary more than 35 million Russians perished as a result of the tyranny of Lenin and Stalin.  

As such, it  is totally false to claim that the Russian people supported the ANC’s cause. The Communist party of the USSR never had a democratic claim to speak on behalf of the people of Russia. Locally we saw this in the years after 1975 when thousands of Mozambicans fled to apartheid South Africa from the communist oppression of the Samora Machel regime. 

Mthethwa’s claim that the USSR produced many scholars and intellectuals is a half-truth. What it did produce were clones who unswervingly adhered to the failed and discredited ideology of marxism. 

What is particularly galling about Mthethwa’s mindset is any admission that the USSR and its ideology was a giant fraud and a failure. That he lacks the intellectual honesty and integrity to present his remarks in a revisionist context means that Mthethwa remains ideologically unrepentant and unreconstructed.In his capacity as minister of Arts and Culture that is both shameful and disquieting.


SA’S BLEAK POLITICAL LANDSCAPE        - posted 19 February 2015

Business Report editor Ellis Mnyandu’s heartfelt plea ( February 16) for responsible political leadership, following the February 12 chaos in  Parliament, is undoubtedly shared by many. But a cursory study of our political landscape suggests that it lacks the panacea Mnyandu seeks. 

The most salient feature of South Africa after 20 years of ANC rule is that we have a hopelessly bloated government that is unable and unwilling to control itself and which is impoverishing the country through plunder and incompetence. Expecting a political Moses to arise from the gravy train which the ANC operates, is naïve.  

However, our vexed situation runs deeper that the power-drunk ranks of the ANC. The late Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert in his book The Last White Parliament (1987, p. 73) warned that ‘unrestrained majoritarianism’ would produce ‘severely undemocratic’ outcomes Have we not arrived at that milestone? 

Slabbert’s dark thought needs to be premised on the observation David Horowitz makes (A Democratic South Africa? 1991, p.242). Democracy, he notes, is rare in ethnically and racially divided societies where majorities and minorities are rigidly predetermined. Is that not also applicable in our case? 

Added to that is the indelible historical thread which runs through African societies, namely, reverence for the ‘strong man’ and the tendency for strength to prevail over law. (Ilana Mercer, Into the Cannibal’s Pot, 2011, p.174)  

Beneath the blandishments that colour references to the new South Africa, lie severe ethnic, ideological and historical faultlines which, it would appear, were overlooked if not sidelined in the 1993/1994 rush to usher in the new South Africa. Had a federal constitutional structure been embraced, as the likes of Chief Buthelezi urged, South Africa’s political landscape would not be so bleak.


The latest shocking incidence of pollution in the Umlaas Canal and at Cuttings beach raises the question that unless the issue is properly addressed, the proposed beaches upgrade from Cuttings to Brighton will be futile. Fortunately, there is a solution, although it depends on a far bigger project that has yet to commence.etween April 1946 and October 1950, when the project was completed, the Mlazi river was diverted (by means of the canal at Cuttings) from its original course which saw it enter the sea in the vicinity of Reunion Rocks, Isipingo.

If, as part of the dig-out port design, the Mlazi river can be returned to its original course and flow into the bay which will result from the excavation of the old airport site, the ongoing menace of pollution at Cuttings beach and northwards along the Bluff peninsula beaches would be resolved. Then, whatever debris the Mlazi river carried could be dealt within the dig-out harbour before it reached the open sea.


Besides the political agenda it conceals, the ANC’s intentions of merging non-viable municipalities with those that are viable reflects an ignorance of Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy on the subject (Mercury,  January 29). 

For, as Lincoln postulated, ‘you don’t strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.’ Sadly, however, ANC dogma which harks back to Soviet-era socialism, has always been about centralised, convergent control. 

Foisting failed municipalities on the few that are not dysfunctional, fulfills the socialist objective of equality in poverty whilst simultaneously shoring up the cracks in the ANC’s monolithic political domination. 

The main reason for dysfunctionalism in the majority of municipalities is ANC cadre deployment. That is, jobs for political

apparachiks instead of postings that are based on merit and competence.  

In the old South Africa there were hundreds more local authorities than the current 283. Most of them worked because they adhered to the basic tenets of service delivery, namely, services rendered  compatible with rates levied. But under the ANC, political welfare is prioritised ahead of service delivery. Merging municipalities will not only increase costs but will further retard service delivery.

WHY PUBLIC LIFE IN SA IS ROTTEN posted 22 December 2014 

The saga surrounding the recent elevation to and subsequent withdrawal of Ellen Zandile Tshabalala from the post of chairperson of the SABC board encapsulates what is rotten about public life in South Africa.  

The Tshabalala case exemplifies in every respect the absence of a sense of conscience, integrity and humility that appears rife among so many holders of public office. First of all, she masqueraded as a graduate of the University of South Africa whilst, in addition, claiming to have post-graduate diploma. When that was shown to be false, she had the gall to assert that the university’s records were faulty. 

Then after her attempts at denial and stonewalling failed to find traction, the reasons she gave for her resignationas SABC chairperson in no way reflected a sense of conscience, integrity and humility. Instead she blamed the ‘negative publicity’ her case had generated as having taken a toll on her family.  Compounding her stunning lack of shame was her claim that she had never been cautioned by anyone senior member of the ANC that she ‘was going astray,’(Mercury, December 18).   

The Tshabalala case, like those that proliferate the ranks of the public service, shows clearly what is coming home to roost after twenty years  ANC cadre-deployment. Prioritising adherence to party ideology and loyalty has been at the expense of competence, eligibility and integrity. The shambles that prevails in every state department today is entirely the product ofdecision-making since 1994.


DBN-PMB TRAVEL HAS A HISTORY OF FRUSTRATION            posted 18 December 2014

Travel times between Durban and Pietermaritzburg have a long history of controversy and frustration. So the news that the test run of the Durban to Pietermaritzburg Business Express train took a disappointing three hours is not without precedent (Daily News, December 16).  

Before Durban and Pietermaritzburg were linked  by rail in 1880, the only means of conveyance was by horse-drawn coach or cart or by ox-wagon. The quickest of those was the post cart service which commenced in the mid-1860s. Using teams of four horses with relays every ten miles, the journey took five hours. 

Coaches or omnibuses as they were called could carry up to ten passengers each paying a fare of thirty shillings. The trip took twelve hours with stops at Pinetown, Botha’s Hill and Uys Doorns which was eight miles from Pietermaritzburg.

Ox-wagon transport was the slowest. When Bishop Colenso travelled  by ox-wagon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in May 1862, the journey took three days. An editorial comment in the Natal Mercury on 7 June 1873 described ox-wagon transport as the ‘very worst known to any civilised country’ because of its slowness and inconvenience.  

The condition of the roads was the greatest impediment to travel. In most cases they were mere tracks which in wet weather became furrows into which wagon wheels sank causing axles to break. Otherwise they were described as ‘rough, stony and heart-breaking.’ The only decent bit of road between  Durban and Pietermaritzburg was the macadamised stretch from the Durban’s centre to the Berea foothills which was completed in 1867 at a cost of £35,000.  The first toll gate in Natal was erected there to recoup the road’s cost.  

Decades of public agitation for a rail link between the port and the capital ended on 1 December 1880 when the first train from Durban steamed into Pietermaritzburg.  Its journey took almost six hours and included stops at Botha’s Hill and Camperdown. The rugged topography of the region posed severe challenges to the railway engineers which resulted in the railway being fifteen miles longer than the road route. Those same topographical factors are still a challenge to  Durban – Pietermaritzburg rail travel, as Passenger Rail Agency manager Eddie Chinnappen notes.


ANC CONDUCT HASTENING SA’S DEMISE                    posted 14 December 2014

The ongoing violence and internal wrangling within the ANC ahead of a regional elective conference to determine which of the contenders will head up  the eThekwini region serves to illustrate why it is that levels of governance under the ANC are in decline.

This unseemly scramble for position and power and its corollary, access to financial influence, makes a mockery of ANC claims concerning discipline, ‘selfless sacrifice’ and what Mandela stood for. With daily reports of corruption, looting, embezzlement and nepotism from all levels of government,it is clear who is serving who in South Africa.

As occurred under Mugabe in Zimbabwe, the ANC has long since obliterated the distinction between the interests of state and those of the ruling party. The zanufication of South Africa is already at an advanced stage. But with their heads so deeply ensconsed in the troughs of taxpayers’ money, the so-called liberators of South Africa, intoxicated by the trappings of power, have become impervious to the fact that their conduct is hastening our demise.


QUESTIONING MANDELA’S LEGACY                    posted 13 December 2014

Acres of print paper have recently been devoted to acclaiming ‘The legacy of Madiba.’Whilst his statesmanship and role in forging the South Africa that emerged in 1994 is rightly applauded, that is only part of his legacy.  What about his silence after his presidency ended in 1999?

Surely his failure to condemn the mismanagement and bungling which has characterised and continues to characterise the ANC’s government of this country since 1999 is part of Mandela’s legacy?

Thus, acclaiming Mandela’s legacy without taking into account his silence on the rot which has enveloped the ANC since his stewardship is historically disingenuous.

ABUSE AND MISUSE OF RATEPAYERS’ MONEY            posted 22 November 2014

It is the duty of opposition councillors to oppose and to expose the waste and misuse of ratepayers’ money. Three recent examples of this merit communication.

At the Council meeting held on October 30, R95,800 was voted in favour of providing a funeral and memorial service for former councillor. There can be no question that that decision was premised on ideological and political considerations and not on the interests of the average ratepayer. It also sets a precedent about which one can only speculate how muchwould be spent on the funeral of one of the current luminaries should such an occasion arise.

Then R310,000 was voted to hire 20 buses to assist members of  a Traditional Council to attend a meeting in northern KZN. The purpose of the meeting was sectionaland cultural. It has nothing to do with the ratepayers of Durban. Again, a precedentwas set: certain cultural interests may enjoy municipal funding. 

The third example involves a unit called Safer Cities. On December 4, officials from that unit want to hire a 23 seater bus, load it with fellow officials and police to tour the Bluff and establish where the crime spots are. When challenged as to the naivety of such an outing and the fact that all that information is well-catalogued by the local CPF and SAP station, the promoters of the idea were unfazed. It is another tick-box exercise and will go ahead. The ratepayer will pay and lunch will follow.  

For how much longer can the city coffers afford to fund such abuse and misuse?

FLAWS IN VILAKAZI’S  HISTORICAL NOTIONS                        posted November 22, 2014

Whilst the existence of nodes of commonality in terms of language and culture among the different indigenous peoples of southern Africa is not disputed, Herbert Vilakazi’s assertion that in pre-colonial times they constituted ‘one historical family’ (Business Report, 21 November) is not supported by the facts.  

Just as many European communities were insulated and isolated from each other during medieval times, African communities existed as separate, independent chieftaincies. Although Vilakazi refers to the ‘constant movement of people from one area to another,’ he is silent about the depredations Arab and African-led slave raiding and trading which caused a steady southward migration of Africans and also of the role of Shaka. The hegemony of Shaka after 1818,caused massive upheaval amongst indigenous communities resulting in subjugation, dispersal and  relocation.

Whole areas of what came to be known as the Transvaal, were found by the Trekboers to be devoid of human settlement. The Basuto evolved from the refugees who holed up in the fastnesses of the Drakensberg to escape Shaka’s raids.  The Ndebele under Mzilikazi of the Khumalo clan of the Zulu fled westwards from Shaka’s despotism settling eventually north of the Limpopo. There, in turn,  they  indulged in constant subjugation of the Shona people of north eastern Zimbabwe. As recently as the early 1980s, Robert Mugabe attempted to turn the tables on the Ndebele through a series of ethnic cleansing purges. Those factors along with the  black-on-black violence in KZN in the 1980s,  which cost some 14,000 lives, scarcely conjures up the notion of ‘one historical family’ as Vilakazi asserts.  

The spaces that separated African communities from each other before the colonial intrusion were, therefore, the result of internecine conflict. In Natal, for example, Shepstone’s location system was an attempt to identify and to provide scattered refugee remnants with territory within which they could rehabilitate themselves.  

One critical and much overlooked factor is that the black and white presence in southern Africa was established through the same means – invasion and conquest.

CLLR LOGIE NAIDOO’S DOUBLE STANDARDS                 posted 13 September 2014

Ethekwini Speaker Cllr Logie Naidoo’s exhortation to councillors to put aside their differences and to become ‘people orientated’ in the interests of municipal efficacy (Daily News, September 5) is the rhetoric of double-standards.  

For while he attempts to preach to the councillors of the Mooi Mpofana municipality on the merits of Batho Pele and mutual interest, it is not what he and his comrades practice in the Ethekwini Council.  

This was clearly illustrated at the July 31 meeting of the Council when, without a single member speaking or offering any reason in objection, the ANC rejected a motion I proposed on derelict buildings.  

At a time when derelict and abandoned properties are undermining the Metro’s rates base  because their presence diminishes the market value of surrounding properties, it is clearly not in the Metro’s economic interests to allow such properties to languish or to proliferate.  

Yet in calling for the adoption of measures to encourage responsible property ownership and to deter owners from allowing their properties to lapse into decay, Cllr Logie Naidoo and the ANC failed to see any mutual interest in the proposal and instead prioritised their inherent ideological differences with the DA ahead of what is good for Durban.



It is a reality that one cannot compel social equality into existence through legislation. Proponents of affirmative action like Rich Mkhondo (Business Report, September 10), nonetheless, persist in ignoring that reality.

Just as nature knows no equality, so inequality and diversity are human realities. In 1997 Thomas Espenshade of Princeton University analysed SAT scores produced by prospective college students – a widely used set of tests for tertiary admissions in the US. He found that out of 1,600 points, the scores of Asian Americans were the highest, exceeding those of whites by 140 points, Hispanics by 270 and African Americans by 450 points.

Mkhondo blames what he calls inferior schooling for the lack of progress in black advancement. But that is hardly the fault of the past. None other than Mamphela Ramphele is on record as stating that the old Bantu education system was better than the present schooling administered by the ANC.

Mkhondo’s lament that blacks are the victims of 300 years of ‘planned illiteracy’ is also tedious nonsense. The first tertiary institution  in Southern Africa, Victoria College, opened only in 1874; Natal University College in 1910. Until well into the 19th century, whatever education whites received was from missionaries, governesses or from their own parents. If Mkhondo’s thesis has any credibility he should explain why when the first whites arrived in Natal in 1824, they did not find any evidence of writing, paper, records, or even a wheel amongst the indigenous population. 

Thomas Sowell, an African American, of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University has consistently challenged the proponents of affirmative action. In his 2004 book titled Affirmative Action around the world: an empirical study,  he  found that race preference programmes have not met expectations and have often produced the opposite of what was originally intended. 

In 2007, US Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: ‘The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ (The Economist, 27 April 2013). Quite so. Affirmative action is merely job reservation by another name.




It is both sad and shocking that Pallo Jordan has  concededthat he has no claim to the doctorate degree with which he has been associated for decades. 

Equally disturbing and damning, however, is the silence of the tertiary institutions with which Mr Jordan was associated. Why did they not come forward long ago and dispute his academic claim? In an age when stringent measures are applied in the exercise of intellectual property rights, the silence of those institutions smacks of political toadyism.



The most basic law of banking is to ensure that loans are backed by collateral.

By attempting to defy that reality and pursuing a business model premised on

unsecured loans, the meltdown of African Bank is not surprising.


Apartheid had nothing to do with the fact that other banks “ignored” low income

borrowers, as Business Report (8 August) claims. What other banks did was to

adhere to the fundamentals of banking which is why they have survived and

why their clients, unlike those of African Bank, are grateful.


By exploiting low income borrowers with expensive credit, which is avarice of the

worst kind, African Bank has reaped what it has sown. Good riddance!



DARK ISSUES IN AUDIT REPORT             posted 31 January 2014


Although Ethekwini Municipality has once again been given an unqualified audit report by the Auditor-General,

the report cites several issues that  cast dark shadows on the state of the  Municipality’s governance and the

material losses it is incurring.


First on the list is what the A-G terms ‘significant uncertainties’ referring to objections lodged  in terms of

the Municipal Property Rates Act amounting to R217 million. As regards material losses, the report notes that

losses relating to water cost the Municipality R513 million and R386 million on electricity.


The biggest fiscal drag is R1,98 billion owed in debts to the Municipality. These are consumer debtors whose

recoverability is doubtful.


As regards governance the Auditor-General singled out irregular expenditure amounting to R325,5 million as a

result of contracts awarded to suppliers which were in contravention of the supply chain regulations. It was also

noted that family members had been awarded contracts by persons in the service of the Municipality and that

disclosure of those interests had not been made.


In terms of the ideal of providing a better life for all, the Municipality was found to have underspent on its

capital budget by R792 million. This is deplorable state of affairs as it means that projects that were in budget

did not happen. In effect it means that the money was lost because it cannot be rolled over into the new financial year.

The A-G calculated that 32% of planned targets were not achieved.


Overall, whilst the fundamentals of the Municipality are sound, what is of real concern is the ability of ratepayers

to continue footing the bill for debts and material losses  which never diminish and currently amount to over R3 billion.

If even half that debt was pruned or recovered, it would allow for a rates reduction and bring relief to ratepayers

whilst simultaneously serving to incentivise  investment in Ethekwini.







Coming in the wake of the Manase Report, an evaluation of the strategic risks to which the Ethekwini Municipality is exposed serves to confirm the blighted state of governance afflicting local government in Durban.


The findings of a strategic risk assessment workshop featured as part of the agenda of the meeting of the Economic Development and Planning  Committee held on September 5. The top ten risks listed are: Supply Chain Management, Non Revenue water, adequacy of talent, fraud, theft and corruption, Housing expectations, rapid urbanisation, communication, infrastructure challenges, investments in the city,

financial sustainability.


While shocked at the extent of the malaise affecting the operation of the municipality and its ability to deliver services, I welcome the candour and honesty of the report as regards the identification of root causes. The following quotes from the report illustrate the extent of the shortcomings Ethekwini faces. On supply chain management it notes poor planning, fraud and conflict of interests. Overall, inadequacy of talent and the failure to retain skills is identified across the board. Exacerbating the situation is a lack of disciplinary processes and management and sheer non-compliance to the extent that the report actually names ‘moral degeneration’ as a major contributing factor afflicting the running of the city.


I believe that this sorry situation is the product of the policy of cadre-deployment and jobs for pals. Unless those practices are abandoned and replaced by employment criteria based solely on  proven skills and competence, the administration of Ethekwini municipality is going to continue to decline. Such a scenario will trigger ratepayer resistance and disinvestment from which, as the experience of Detroit in the USA shows, the chances of recovery

are very slim.



Developments at three other ports in southern Africa have the potential

to deprive Durban of much of its container traffic and, as a consequence,

impact negatively on its economy.

Walvis Bay in Namibia is expanding its container terminal capacity. At least five

sailing days closer to the North American and European markets, Walvis Bay

has the potential to deprive Durban of time-sensitive cargoes. Then there is

Maputo which, historically, has always been well-placed to enjoy trade and traffic

from the Witwatersrand and which is planning to improve its maritime potential.

Coega, near Port Elizabeth, cannot be discounted from making future inroads into

the container business.

Viewed from that context, the plans to extend Durban’s container-handling capacity

by means of back-of-port expansion and the dig-out port are vital if Durban is to

hold out against competition in this trade. Significantly, a review of the 2013

IDP (Integrated Development Plan) earmarks major expenditure and employment

opportunities for those projects. The South Durban Basin, which has suffered economically

since the relocation of the airport, thus stands to derive significant economic benefit from

the port expansion projects.



The reasons for the DA’s opposition to the 2013/14 eThekwini budget are no different from the last ten years in which it has opposed budgets

set by the ANC-led Council: top-heavy organisational structure, dysfunctional departments like the Metro Police and Housing, slipping standards

and contracts for cronies.

* Specifically, the DA cannot support an ever-upward spending trajectory that has now reached almost R34 billion – just seven years ago it

was R13,9 billion- on a rates base that is stagnant.

* The fact that a mere 450,000 people out of the eThekwini population of 3,5 million pay rates is neither a sound nor a sustainable situation.

* The fact that only 992,560 of the population of eThekwini - 30,5% - are employed places an unsustainable burden on them to keep paying

for the ever-increasing costs of this municipality.

* The lack of an incentivising programme to attract business investment.

* Rate charges that are the highest amongst the seven metros.

* Failure to increase capital spending at a time of economic hardship and so sustain and increase employment opportunities. Instead,

the capital budget has been reduced from R6,5 to R5,4 billion while the operating budget, which under the circumstances, should have

been trimmed, has grown from R25 to R28 billion.

What Durban needs to survive the economic challenges it faces is an immediate end to the functioning of Parkinson’s Law in respect of

the burgeoning layers of management personnel. We need competitive outsourcing, transparency in the bid adjudication system and lower tariffs in

respect of attracting business investment. Above all, the Council needs to demonstrate political will in dismissing corrupt councillors and staff who

brazenly flout the law by conducting business deals with the Council. There needs to be insistence on standards of excellence and elimination of those whose

work ethics do not comply with the principle of batho pele, we serve.

Unfortunately, in presenting the 2013/14 Budget on May 29, mayor Nxumalo did not undertake to implement any of these badly-needed reforms.



At the meeting of the eThekwini Council on April 30 all parties voted in support of

the expenditure of R500,000 on research and mapping of a Liberation Heritage Route


Approved by the national Cabinet, the aim of the project is to identify a series of

sites which historically were linked in the ANC’s liberation struggle and to create a

tourism experience. While from a history and heritage point of view, such a project is

justified, it needs to be integrated into the wider historical tapestry which this country

has charted.

Each generation in our history has had its liberators. Within eThekwini there are statues

and monuments to Dick King, Louis Botha and Jan Smuts, for example. Within the context

of their times they were liberators. Without context, the relevance and significance of a history

suffers. Moreover, the Preamble of our Constitution calls on us to ‘respect those who have

worked to build and develop our country.’

The time for sectional accounts of our history has passed. Incorporating the recent liberators

into our accumulated historical highway, would demonstrate maturity as a society

while simultaneously presenting tourists with a comprehensive historical experience.



There has been much public outrage at the news that several councillors

around the province are in arrears with their payments to municipalities on their

rates, water and electricity accounts.

This outrage is fully justified as those elected to public office should lead by example.

In that respect history is instructive. According to a report in the Mercury on July 7, 1900,

Councillor Poynton was automatically disqualified as a public representative on the Durban

Town Council for an entire year because he was one month in arrears by a small amount on

property he was renting.

Yesterday’s excellence should be today’s standards.



HYPOCRITICAL SILENCE posted March 7, 2013

The news that more than 4,000 people died whilst in police custody between 2006 and 2011(Mercury, 4 March)

ought to have been framed within thick black lines on the front pages of our press as was the case

during the apartheid era. Yet this devastating indictment of the extent to which human rights have lapsed in

the new South Africa was tucked away on the inner pages.

Where are the voices that routinely trot out the cliches about the ‘dark days of apartheid?’ Their silence now is the

the silence of hypocrisy. Why don’t they acknowledge that whilst under apartheid there was detention without trial,

under the ANC regime there is now execution without trial ?

For the record: from 1963 until 1985, the number of deaths in police detention was 74.


To the Headmaster and Staff – DHS                        posted 14 February, 2013


On Friday, February 8, I had occasion to have parked my car in Windmill Rd and was walking to Musgrave Centre.

Your school was out early – it was around 11.20 am – prize giving day maybe .

It was a warm day yet I noticed that every one of the scores of your pupils who were walking in the same direction

had his blazer buttoned, his tie was firmly in place,  not a shirt tail was visible.


Even more impressive was the fact that they greeted me! Yet I was a mere stranger on the street.


Having retired from  a school south of Durban where we abandoned the tie because it was abused, where we

abandoned the blazer [except for speech days] and where we brought in a shirt that was not tucked in because

getting shirt tails tucked in just became impossible – I feel uplifted by the sartorial pride and uniformity displayed

by the DHS pupils I saw last Friday and also by their courtesy and politeness.


There is hope for this country when such behaviour is witnessed.

May you live long and prosper.





posted Jan 29, 2013


On 28 January the Department of Social Services published an eighteen page list of the points around the country where recipients of

social grants can re-register. Whilst other provinces enjoyed the luxury of hundreds of such points, only 75 registration points are listed

for KZN, despite the fact that it has the largest population of the nine provinces.  Durban, with a population of 3,6 million, has only 12

registration points.


This is unacceptable. It is also impractical as the elderly and infirm cannot be expected to queue  for up to 12 hours before being served.

Exemplifying this reality is the fact that residents of the central Durban area have only one service point: the APS hall at 159 Carlisle St. which

is not even in the CBD area.


My enquiries as to why this is the case have been met, predictably, by the claim that the Dept is short of staff and budget.

Again this is risible given the vast sums of money lavished on the President’s home and other examples of looting from the public purse.


If re-registration is required, then it must be staggered over a period and, like voting, it must be suburb-based, so as to be convenient for

those who are disadvantaged in terms of mobility and transport.


ZUMA’S REMARKS ON CULTURE REFLECT GREAT IGNORANCE                    posted Dec 28, 2012


By his remark  that ‘black people should stop adopting the habits of other cultures’ (Mercury, December 27)

President Jacob Zuma displays great ignorance of the historically universal process of cultural enrichment.


Every field of human endeavour, from food, language and the arts, to architecture, the sciences and agriculture,

reflects the effects of cross-cultural input and exchange. Where would so-called western culture be without the

‘Arabic’ numerals introduced by the Mahomedans and their contribution to medicine and mathematics? The richness

of the English language is a reflection of the many words and expressions that have been incorporated from other

languages and cultures.


Just where Africans would be were it not for the ways and habits of other cultures which they have adopted, of their own accord,

may be gauged from a remark by Dr Andrew Smith in a letter to Cape Governor Sir Lowry Cole, dated 26 May

1829. Smith explored the eastern part of South Africa, particularly Natal, where he visited Dingane. He noted: ‘ The

whole of its inhabitants are ..... incessant sufferers of oppression, famine and ill-directed power, (their) lands nothing

better than wastes over which the influence of art has hitherto exercised no sway... its natural productions..... existing

for the limited purposes to which such are applied by uncivilised nations’ (p. 244, Andrew Smith and Natal, ed. by PR Kirby,

Cape Town, 1955).


PORT PROTEST SENTIMENTS NOTED IN DA SUBMISSION            posted December 12, 2012


The Caucus of the Democratic Alliance in Ethekwini Muncipality has noted the sentiments of those who are protesting the proposed back-of-port plans

and wishes to place on record that its submission on the issue has taken those sentiments into account.


As regards Clairwood and the Link Road, the DA stated the following in its submission which was made before the November 21 deadline:



The Democratic Alliance is opposed to the proposal that this suburb should become a logistics hub. Constitutionally, no community can simply be consigned to extinction. Regardless of the extent to which the lack of town-planning enforcement has resulted in neglect of the residential component of Clairwood, the history and heritage of that community deserves the right to preservation. Accordingly, the DA proposes that the residential component, as defined by Sastri, Sir Kirmu Reddi, Flower and Sirdar Roads be ring-fenced and rid of trucking and other non-residential elements which have infiltrated that area. The DA believes that such a commitment would rejuvenate and revive the Clairwood community whose roots extend back a century.


Whilst the DA welcomes the concept of the link road as a dedicated carriageway for trucks from the Bayhead to the ring-road, it has serious concerns about the effects this roadway will have on existing businesses. Specifically, the DA is concerned that the Fresh Produce Market and the Clairwood Housewives Market may be demolished in order to make way for the link road. The livelihoods of more than 600 people would be affected in that particular instance. Relocation is not a simple option for the owners of those businesses or their employees. To relocate the investments they have made in plant and material would be prohibitively expensive.

Therefore, the DA proposes: [1] that the link road be routed around the Flower Rd Market and its ancillary business hub, the Clairwood Housewives Market ; [2] that if re-routing is not possible, then commensurate compensation for those businesses and others similarly affected, must be factored into the costs of the proposed link road.



MALAISE IN ETHEKWINI COUNCIL                posted Sept 28


In his historic address to the eThekwini Council on September 19, King Goodwill Zwelithini

reproached the ANC-led Council for arrogance and smugness which, he pointed out, was

inhibiting service delivery.


But his words have fallen on deaf ears as the following events at the Council meeting held on

September 26 demonstrated:

* The willful vindictiveness of Cllr Mapena who refused to provide the answer

to a question which had been tabled unless he could do so in Sotho;

* Cllr Gaillard’s unparliamentary threat to inflict physical violence on Cllr MacPherson in the

car park;

* The ANC’s insistence that the cases of councillors exposed for illegally doing business with

the Council should, for accounting purposes, be ‘regularised’;

* The ANC’s spiteful rejection of two DA notices of motion on precisely the issue the King is

concerned about, namely, service delivery.


Central to this state of malaise is the conspicuous absence of leadership within the ANC. From

one Council meeting to the next it is apparent that the Speaker, Cllr Logie Naidoo, is unable and

unwilling to rein in rogue elements in his caucus like Cllr Mapena and others who then exploit

the leadership void with impunity.


Equally disappointing is the role of mayor James Nxumalo whose silence can only be interpreted

as condoning the vindictive and often disruptive antics of his comrades.


Co-operative governance in eThekwini municipality is floundering for precisely the reasons King

Goodwill identified: greed, arrogance and indifference.



PREJUDICE MARRING BACK OF  PORT DEBATE        posted 11 September 2012


The views expressed by Alice Thomson and Vanessa Black of EarthLife (Mercury, 4 September)

exemplify the prejudice which has marred the back-of-port debate to date.


At the outset they question the wisdom of embarking on a costly exercise in the expansion of

shipping and freight facilities when the world’s economy appears to be ‘chaotic,’ as they put it.

History has the answer to their fears and forebodings. First of all, boom and bust cycles are a

reality of world trade, going back to the South Sea bubble of 1720. Despite the prostrate state

of the world economy in 1933 when a quarter of  Americans were unemployed, President Roosevelt

initiated a multi-billion dollar spending programme (the New Deal) to re-start the US economy.

The Marshall Plan revitalised Europe’s shattered economy to the tune of $19 billion after WWII.


If Durban is to remain South Africa’s leading port and Africa’s second busiest after Port Said, it has

to expand. The widening of the harbour mouth was already a step in that direction. Currently the

livelihoods of at least 30,000 people in Durban are directly or indirectly dependent on the port.

Stagnation is not an option. That figure needs to grow or else Durban will face increasing competition

from Richards Bay and Maputo. Historically, Durban has always been a forwarding agency because

of its geographical  proximity to the Witwatersrand.


One of the functions of the proposed dig-out port on the site of the old airport is the consolidation

of the petro-chemical farm there. Currently it is based in the Cutler complex at Island View.

Such a development would greatly reduce the threat of pollution and gas emissions which trouble

the Fynnland area of the Bluff. And in time it would mean that the network of fuel pipes, which traverse

Merewent and the Bluff via Tara, Lighthouse and Island Views Rds, would no longer be necessary.


Whilst the position of the residential component of Clairwood needs qualification, the claim that

the back-of-port developments ‘will destroy neighbourhoods’ is devoid of truth. The proposed link

road, which is a trucks-only dedicated carriageway, is planned to skirt around Clairwood, go through

the Umhlatuzana valley to Coedmore quarry where it would split north/south. No neighbourhoods are

threatened by this route, especially not Wentworth as Thomson and Black aver. On the contrary, the

link road will remove container trucks from Edwin Swales VC Dve and South Coast Rd. That is a huge

plus for Bluff residents and those of Umbilo, Rossburgh and,hopefully, Clairwood.


As regards Clairwood, the recommendation on page 164 of the so-called secret document that Clairwood

be turned into a ‘logistics hub’ is unacceptable. The residential core of that blighted suburb, namely, the

area between Flower, Sirdar, Sastri and Sir Kurma Reddi Rds, needs to be ringfenced and the trucking firms

within that area removed. As the former councillor for Clairwood, that is the view I enunciated in 2002 which

the DA still holds.


Climate change is not something new so the suggestion by Thomson and Black that the increased port activity will

hasten climate change not a given. Research going back more than 1,000 years indicates that weather

cycles are a reality of our planet and that the cause of these cycles is solar. Long before carbon emissions

became a topic of debate, aberrations in weather were a reality. For example, In April 1856, over a five day

period 27 inches of rain fell in the Durban area; over two days late in August 1868, over seventeen inches

fell over the Natal coast. Many bridges were swept away in the floods of 1959, 1976 and 1987.


To claim that insufficient consultation of communities has taken place is no fault of the municipality. To date

all their attempts at engaging communities in public meetings have had to be aborted because of the antics

of a small group of people. Those scheduled meetings were intended as a starting point and not as tick-box

exercises. I am on record as saying that I would ask for a series of meetings if I was not satisfied with the

answers to questions because it is vital to allay fears and prejudices and that emotional outpourings are no

substitute for intellectual engagement.


Finally, the 376 page document is merely a draft. It is not cast in stone nor are its recommendations a fait accompli.

Whilst speculation as to the fate of certain areas is a natural response, it is necessary to distinguish between

speculative outcomes and ones that result from consultation and negotiation



At its meeting on August 30, the ANC-dominated eThekwini Council voted in favour of

a centralised system of problem-reporting and query resolution. In practice this will resemble

a call-centre to which councillors will be required to refer  queries and issues on

behalf of ratepayers. Moreover, it is envisaged that this call-centre will be manned by

former councillors who were unsuccessful in the 2011 elections.


The DA rejects this approach for the following reasons:

1] It encoaches on the independence and enterprise of individual councillors in expediting answers

    to queries and solutions to problems;

2] It adds yet another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy to the already bloated Council organogram

     and, as such, demonstrates that Parkinson’s law is thriving in the eThekwini municipality;

3] Subjecting individual councillor efforts on behalf of ratepayers to a collective, bureaucratic

    system amounts to a one-size-fits-all approach which has been proved to retard service delivery.

4] By attempting to insulate officials from councillors, who represent  the public and ratepayers,

    this system flies in the face of the fundamental tenets of governance, namely transparency and

    accountability to say nothing of the right of citizens to be able to access information without having

    to pass through a filter process requiring logging, reference numbers and ultimately the efficacy of

    an official in providing ‘feedback’ when he feels like it.


Already service delivery is problematic in several Council units. This system is simply going to retard

it further. As such it constitutes another nail in the coffin of service delivery .



 FURTHER CLARITY ON PORT PLANS                    posted 23 August 2012


The adage ‘if you can’t convince them, then confuse them, ’  sadly, seems to be in vogue as regards the proposed port development plans.


First, a clear distinction needs to be drawn between  the proposed dig-out port on the old airport site and the proposed back-of-port

expansion. They are two separate projects which are not only are not only miles apart, but they are also decades apart in terms of time frame implementation.

Work on the dig-out port is expected to commence in July 2016 whilst the envisaged southwards expansion of the existing

harbour is not scheduled until 2037.


Second, there is no document that is ‘under wraps.’ The 376 page report is freely available  in hardcopy and disc format. It is a transparent document

which invites engagement and discussion, not boycott and denial. Moreover, nowhere is it written that public participation will be limited to a single

meeting. Although the window of public comment has been extended to November 21, as I stated publicly on August 13, I will insist on as many

discussion meetings as are deemed necessary.


Third, as regards Clairwood, constitutionally, no community can simply be consigned to extinction as was the case with District 6

in Cape Town nearly 50 years ago. Concerns of heritage and history enjoy constitutional protection and the DA, as a custodian of the

constitution, is pledged to uphold the right of the residential component of Clairwood to security of tenure.


Fourth, the claim that thousands of people will lose their homes as a result of the port plans is utterly fallacious and deplorable. The proposed

link road from Bayhead to link up with the N2 near Coedmore quarry does not affect any existing housing. Moreover, it will be a dedicated trucks-only

route which will reconfigure the passage of trucking in the South Durban Basin. As such,  it should be warmly welcomed.


Fifth, the dig-out port promises to be the greatest construction venture ever undertaken in South Africa. It is vital if the Ethekwini region is to embrace

the future in which 18,000 teu container ships are the norm. In terms of logistics and economics the consequences of this project are hugely positive for

Durban and in particular the South Durban Basin. Currently over 30,000 people directly and indirectly depend on the port for their livelihoods and that

includes about 20 percent of Bluff residents.





The Democratic Alliance regards the actions of Mr Desmond D’sa and his co-opted cohorts in

preventing Council-led information meetings from occurring in the South Durban Basin regarding

the proposed back-of-port developments, as undemocratic and a violation of stakeholders’

rights to form their own opinions as to the nature of these plans.


To date Mr D’Sa has succeeded in aborting meetings in Clairwood, Merewent and the Bluff. On each occasion

he has claimed that the Council is withholding a 376 page document from the public which, he alleges, contains

information which the Council does not want the public to access. He has argued that until that document is made public,

consultation is disingenuous.


However, the DA finds Mr D’Sa’s tactics to be thoroughly disingenuous. The 376 page document to which he refers is

available in hardcopy format at libraries whilst disc copies of it have been freely distributed to all those who have

turned up at the Council-information meetings. The document comprises of ten chapters covering all aspects

from infrastructure and traffic to social, environmental and economics. As a discussion document, it merely specifies

scenarios and possible choices. It does not prescribe or compel. It is transparent and open to scrutiny.

FURTHER CLARITY ON PORT PLANS                    posted 23 August 2012


The adage ‘if you can’t convince them, then confuse them, ’  sadly, seems to be in vogue as regards the proposed port development plans.


First, a clear distinction needs to be drawn between  the proposed dig-out port on the old airport site and the proposed back-of-port

expansion. They are two separate projects which are not only are not only miles apart, but they are also decades apart in terms of time frame implementation.

Work on the dig-out port is expected to commence in July 2016 whilst the envisaged southwards expansion of the existing

harbour is not scheduled until 2037.


Second, there is no document that is ‘under wraps.’ The 376 page report is freely available  in hardcopy and disc format. It is a transparent document

which invites engagement and discussion, not boycott and denial. Moreover, nowhere is it written that public participation will be limited to a single

meeting. Although the window of public comment has been extended to November 21, as I stated publicly on August 13, I will insist on as many

discussion meetings as are deemed necessary.


Third, as regards Clairwood, constitutionally, no community can simply be consigned to extinction as was the case with District 6

in Cape Town nearly 50 years ago. Concerns of heritage and history enjoy constitutional protection and the DA, as a custodian of the

constitution, is pledged to uphold the right of the residential component of Clairwood to security of tenure.


Fourth, the claim that thousands of people will lose their homes as a result of the port plans is utterly fallacious and deplorable. The proposed

link road from Bayhead to link up with the N2 near Coedmore quarry does not affect any existing housing. Moreover, it will be a dedicated trucks-only

route which will reconfigure the passage of trucking in the South Durban Basin. As such,  it should be warmly welcomed.


Fifth, the dig-out port promises to be the greatest construction venture ever undertaken in South Africa. It is vital if the Ethekwini region is to embrace

the future in which 18,000 teu container ships are the norm. In terms of logistics and economics the consequences of this project are hugely positive for

Durban and in particular the South Durban Basin. Currently over 30,000 people directly and indirectly depend on the port for their livelihoods and that

includes about 20 percent of Bluff residents.


The DA, therefore, rejects with contempt the assertion by one Mr Ivor Aylward, an ally of Mr D’Sa, that 30,000 people

will lose their homes if the back-of-port plans are implemented. Such an unsubstantiated  claim is  highly irresponsible.

Yet such statements from the D’Sa camp appear intended not to inform but to intimidate and create an atmosphere of mistrust.

By denying stakeholders the right to hear the other side, it would appear, the D’Sa camp is deliberately fuelling emotions in an

attempt to forge community resistance, notwithstanding the fact that the South Durban Basin urgently needs new thinking and

forward planning.


For the record, the DA will never support any project that results in mass social upheaval or removal.

As regards  Clairwood and the three options listed on page 164 of the document, the DA rejects the suggestion that

Clairwood be rezoned into a logistics area. The DA has always supported the right of the residential component of Clairwood

to be ringfenced and to enjoy security of tenure.


The DA is pleased to note that a link road system from Bayhead southwards, would be mandatory for trucks.

This road, which will skirt around Clairwood, will relieve the Bluff and Merewent areas of trucks and improve the safety and  quality of life.






Tony Carnie’s story on the possible consequences of the back-of-port and dig-out port (Mercury, August 16),

is flawed and confused.


First, the proposed dig-out port on the old airport site is an entirely separate project from the proposed back-of-port

expansion. Not only are the projects miles apart, but they are also decades apart in terms of time frame implementation.

Work on the dig-out port is expected to commence in July 2016 whilst the envisaged southwards expansion of the existing

harbour is not scheduled until 2037.


Second, there is no document that is ‘under wraps.’ The 376 page report, which is divided into ten chapters, is available at

libraries and in disc format. It is transparent and  contains a series of scenarios. It does not compel or prescribe.


Third, as regards Clairwood, on page 164 of the document there are three options listed. The fact that preference is given to

Clairwood becoming a logistics hub is not something that is cast in stone. Constitutionally, no community can simply be consigned to

extinction. Since 2000, the DA has endorsed the historic right of the residential component of Clairwood to security of tenure.


Fourth, one of the critical aspects of the dig-out port is the inclusion of a car-loading facility. This is already earmarked to be located

at the entrance of the port. Carnie’s suggestion that Toyota is planning a 10,000-bay car facility at Camperdown simply does not square

with the facts.


The dig-out port promises to be the greatest construction venture ever undertaken in South Africa. It is vital if Durban is to embrace

the future in which 18,000 teu container ships are the norm. In terms of logistics and economics the consequences of this project

are hugely positive for Durban and in particular the South Durban Basin. Historically the Mercury has always endorsed projects

which add economic value to the province. As early as 1866, it endorsed a plan by Royal engineers to link Isipingo with Durban bay by canal

so as to afford sugar planters easier access to shipping at the Point (see: Natal Mercury, 30 October 1866).




PARKINSON’S LAW THRIVING IN ETHEKWINI                posted 6 August


The decision by City Manager, Sibusiso Sithole, to add a layer of eight new posts to the already bloated top

structure of the Ethekwini Municipality provides proof that Parkinson’s law is thriving in Durban.


In the late 1950s Professor Northcote Parkinson posited a theory that bureaucracy begets bureaucracy.

Based on studies of the British Colonial and Civil Service, he found the following:

1] that there was little or no relationship between work to be done and the size of the staff;

2] officials are prone to multiplying the number of subordinates;

3] officials make work for each other.

Specifically he noted that the increase in administrative staff tended to be double that of the

technical staff and that in time such organisations were beset by paralysis.


This is exactly what is happening in the Ethekwini Metro. Whilst a shortage of technical staff is

frustrating operational efficacy, the administrative component continues to mushroom is size.

In turn, each of the top new posts Sithole intends creating will require all the accoutrements of high

office and the staff component which goes with such appointments.


When the unicity model was put forward in 2000, it was stated that the consolidation of more than

ten local municipalities into a single  Metropolitan administration would reduce the duplication of

services and prove cost effective. Yet in ten years while the Ethekwini metro staff has grown from

16,000 to over 23,000, costs have become almost prohibitive and service delivery ranges from patchy

to pathetic. This is the classic manifestation of Parkinson’s law.



IN February the MEC in charge of Local Government, Nomusa Dube, gave the Ethekwini

Municipality three months to act on the findings of the Manase inquiry into the functioning

of its administration. Six months later councillors and ratepayers remain in the dark as to

the contents of the Report a synopsis of which has alleged high level corruption and fraud.


We repeatedly hear of the commitment by those in power  to root out corruption, yet when

an inquiry into  corrupt practices is produced, those same people perform an egg dance in

attempting to explain why the report can’t be released.  In June the City Manager, Sibusiso

Sithole, promised the Manase Report would be released in July. But now he has done a political

U-turn and claims that it is not opportune to release it.


This is outrageous. Mr Sithole needs to be reminded that he is the servant of the ratepayers

whose money paid for the Manase inquiry in the first place and who are being shortchanged

each day that the facts on corruption and fraud are kept from exposure. If disclosing the names

of whistle-blowers whose details are said to be listed in the annexures of the Report is what

is holding up the release, then common sense dictates that the Report is released without

the annexures.


I urge ratepayers to inundate City Manager Sithole with demands for the immediate release

of the Manase Report. The time to restore government to the ratepayers, by the ratepayers and for the

ratepayers is overdue.

Sithole’s email address is:

His office phone number is 031 311 2132





In another of his characteristically jaundiced columns (Mercury, July 17), Max du Preez condemns what he

calls attempts to revise the history of the apartheid era. However, in so doing  he displays a basic lack of

understanding of the task of historians.


The primary functions of historians are to assemble records of the past and to place interpretations on them.

It is in the latter role that differences arise for they are the product of generation, ideology and culture. As a

result there is no such thing as stasis in history or an ultimate history. Instead interpretations are mutant.


Whilst there are numerous instances of that reality, a particular local  one serves as a good example.

Histories written of the Anglo-Zulu war during the colonial era universally condemned what was termed

Zulu aggression and glorified British imperialism. A century later, a study of the same event by Jeff Guy

was  highly sympathetic towards the Zulu and indicted the British for deliberately seeking confrontation

with the Zulu king Cetewayo.


History, therefore, is dynamic. It is about change, contrast, context and comparison.

For Max du Preez to label as ‘apologists’ historians who are reviewing the apartheid era and to claim that they

have an agenda to ‘deodorise the nasty smell of apartheid’ is an unqualified, sweeping statement which,

academically, seriously lacks credibility.


Applying the logic of du Preez’s thinking, everything which preceded 1994 is evil and reprehensible. If that were

the case, all relics of that time should be torn down and Max du Preez should cease to speak his native Afrikaans

language which is entirely a product of the colonial and racist past he so abhors.


Whether Max du Preez likes it or not, positive references to the past he so deprecates will colour historians’

writings of the future particularly as the ANC seems intent on repeating the errors that have so hobbled post-colonial





-  POSTED 20 JULY 2012


The ANC’s latest attempt to break what is fixed instead of fixing what is broken not only

flies in the face of logic but will result in the demise of the few functional  state schools still

in existence.


It is universally acknowledged that preference in admission is always given to learners who live in the

immediate vicinity of a school. If that were not the case, then all schools would be clustered

in a group rather like factories in an industrial area.


For the ANC to argue that so-called transformation is not taking place at the few remaining

former model-C schools is utterly false. The reality is that those schools are the only ones that are

transformed in that their student ranks reflect all races. When will the township schools reflect

a genuine demographic mix?


Affordability is also a critical aspect of school choice. The facilities available at  former model-C schools

are the result of the school fees  parents pay. Such fees are usually well  in excess of R1,000 per month.

If those schools are flooded with the learners  of indigent parents, within a year the quality of education on

offer will cease as the services of  the extra teachers paid from governing body funds become unaffordable.


Is that what the ANC wants – a new batch of dysfunctional schools?

As things stand, many former model-C schools are barely coping on the fees they receive from a

declining corps of parents who are able to pay up in full. By  insisting that those schools must accept

all comers, all the ANC will achieve will be to hasten the tipping point of financial collapse, sadly, something at which

it has proved quite talented.





The proposed dig-out port on the old airport site will be the largest project ever undertaken

in South Africa. This was disclosed to councillors from the South Durban Basin during a briefing

by the programme director of Transnet’s planning division, Marc Descoins, on Thursday, June 21.


Work on the multi-billion Rand project is expected to commence in July 2016 with the first

phase of the project completed by 2019. Development of the project is to be over a 30 year period.


The construction phase will provide an estimated 64,000 jobs. It is expected that 25,000

permanent jobs will be generated by the port once it is functioning.


The scale and details of the project are staggering. The port will involve liquid fuel, automotive

and container cargoes. The siting of the entrance to the port will require the relocation of the

single buoy mooring. The construction of the southern breakwater alone will absorb 16% of the

total cost and will require special sources of quarry stone.


Environmental concerns are being taken very seriously. For example R85 million has been budgeted  to

relocate some 2,000 chamelions which inhabit a part of the northern section of the airport site. A

unique species of frog will be similarly  cared for and Mr Descoins has specified that the mangroves will not be violated.


Of particular significance is that without the dig-out port, Durban will stagnate as a port of call and experience decline.

Already Cape Town does not have the capacity or berths that are deep enough to handle the new generation of 18,000

TEU ships that are due soon. Durban’s proximity to the Witwatersrand makes it the logical and preferred destination

for container shipping. Studies have shown that the old airport site is ideal for the construction of a new

harbour designed specifically to  manage the size and volume of container shipping. Moreover, Durban’s

geographical location in the southern hemisphere is particularly advantageous as regards intercontinental shipments

from the east to South America and beyond to the north Atlantic.


Consultation with the surrounding communities is a priority for Transnet so as to ensure a spirit of mutual benefit and

co-operation. Engagement with private property owners whose properties are vulnerable to the proposed development

will begin next month.


WOULD DR AB XUMA SUPPORT THE ANC TODAY?                       posted June 10


Although current ANC leaders make routine references to the legacies of their previous leaders,

the 2012 publication of the Autobiography and Selected Works of Dr AB Xuma, president and reformer of the ANC

in the 1940s, contains insights which suggest that he would have difficulty in supporting the ANC as it

operates today.


On financial temptation Xuma told the conference of ‘Non-European’ trade unions in Bloemfontein on August 4, 1945:

‘In your struggle you will have financial problems to face. There will be temptation for you and the weak-minded and

weak of character will succumb......Any one of us who permits money influence or power to divide our strength are

traitors to our cause and joint oppressors.....’ (p. 228-229).


On the subject of leadership, Dr Xuma addressed these words to the ANC’s 1956 conference in a letter dated 28 January:

‘Leadership means service for and not domination over others. True and genuine leaders serve the cause of the people

and do not expect the cause to serve them or become a source of profit for them’ (p.116).


Some six years ago or so, Smuts Ngonyama, then of the ANC, famously stated that he did not join the struggle to remain poor.

Every day there are reports of corruption, nepotism and cronyism on the part of ANC members and leaders – both

in government and in the private sector. Whole provinces like Limpopo have been looted and reduced to dysfunctionalism.

ANC mismanagement bankrupted Pietermaritzburg. As the ANC celebrates its centenary it needs to reflect seriously on the

principles and ethics of its founders.


A DISTURBING BUDGET                                    posted June 1


A budget is a showcase of governance which, in turn, concerns the implementation of funding.

As the Manase Report appears to indicate, there are serious deficiencies in governance

within Ethekwini municipality and for such reasons the DA has opposed the 2012/13 Budget.


The Operating Budget is creaking under the weight of a ballooning employee corps. It is up from 16,000 less than eight years ago

to almost 24,000. The ‘jobs for pals’ syndrome is thriving. Yet outside of that there is an army  of contractors all benefiting from

ratepayers’ funds. The most glaring of these are the 409 contractors who are listed as removing refuse from informal settlements

and whose remuneration, astonishingly,  is costing over R280 million.


Yet while funds are being spent in what seems to be  cavalier fashion, the Capital Budget is small and stagnating, rising only from

R5,228  to R5,596 billion in 2015. That means playing infrastructure catch-up in years to come when COL and inflation is exponentially

higher. Meanwhile borrowings, which are premised on a stagnant rates base, are sitting within two percent of the maximum margin permitted.

Servicing those loans is costing R600 million per annum.


In 2006 the then DA Caucus leader, Councillor John Steenhuizen, rejected the Budget  on the grounds of lack of proper process [public hearings fiasco]

no competitive outsourcing, racially skewed procurement procedures, top-heavy organisational structure, dysfunctional departments  like Metro Police

and Parks. He concluded his Budget address with these words:

 ‘The reality is this Budget holds the promise to ratepayers of nothing more than more of the same slipping standards, paltry policing, mediocre maintenance,

  contracts for cronies and ripped-off ratepayers.’


In 2012 things are no different. Indeed they are more expensive. And the expenditure continues to mount despite the very narrow rates base, growing only

at one percent per annum, and the lack of business incentives to attract investment.


The ANC crows about the 2012/13 Ethekwini budget as being another victory for the poor. But the only part that benefits the poor is the ANC’s last minute loss

of political will to obligate those with properties rated at less than R185,000 to contribute R20 per month in rates. The trouble with socialism, as Margaret

Thatcher once pointed out, is that  ‘eventually you run out of other people’s money.’ For Durban’s sake, that is the historical lesson the ANC needs to learn, urgently.


ZUMA IS REAPING WHAT HE HAS SOWN                posted  May 23


Heads of state are expected to conform to norms that are respectable and worthy of emulation.


One of the reasons attributed to Nicholas Sarkozy’s defeat in the recent French presidential election

was public disdain for his arrogant and extravagant lifestyle. In contrast and as a consequence, the

newly elected Francois Hollande has been termed ‘President normal.’


For Jacob Zuma to attempt to claim moral indignation on the grounds that the painting The Spear makes

a mockery of his office is as ludicrous as it is ironic. For Zuma is simply reaping what he has sown as a

public figure.


Relevant quote:  ‘The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.’   Margaret Thatcher.


FACTS ON TRAFFIC SIGNALS:            posted May 4, 2012


A report to the Social Services Committee on May 2 provided the following facts concerning traffic signals:


1] There are 800 signalised intersections in Ethekwini Municipality;

2] Each month 1,400 of the robot light bulbs have to be replaced;

3] On any given day 10-15 signals are not operating; that means 98% of traffic lights are in operation.

4] Vandalism is the biggest cause of non-operation of traffic signals;

5] Each month 30-40 traffic signal poles are knocked down by motorists;

6] Control boxes: re-installation takes 3-5 days and costs R75,000 per box. In 2009, thirty control boxes were damaged.

7] Conversion to LED bulbs will increase life from 4 months to five years.

8] At its April meeting, the Council approved a pilot project (put forward by the DA) for solar-powered traffic signals. 

ANC IS CONDOMISING CORRUPTION                posted April 28


By condoning the blatant violation of the Councillors Code of Conduct Ethekwini mayor, James Nxumalo, has shown that when it comes tofighting corruption he has feet of clay (Daily News, April 27).

There can be no excuse for ANC Executive Committee member and chief whip, Stanley Xulu, claiming ignorance of the law in respect of councillors doing business with the municipality. By defending the indefensible, mayor Nxumalo has shown that his rhetoric on corruption is devoid of credibility. The fact that Xulu benefited from municipal tenders worth over R8,5 million cannot be written off as a ‘mistake.’  

Mayor Nxumalo is making a mockery of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by allowing Xulu to continue in office and to forfeit only a year’s salary based on the 2009/2010 remuneration levels. There can only be one verdict for Xulu and it is his immediate resignation from the Council and a hefty fine based on his illegal gains.  

By shielding the likes of Xulu from the proper consequences of his disgraceful conduct, the message that is being propagated is that, barring a slap on the wrist, it is acceptable to violate the ethics of public service even when it runs into millions. Put bluntly, it amounts to condomising corruption.

From this one can appreciate why it is said that corruption is not an aberration of government in Third World countries. It is the norm.


FAST FACTS ON DURBAN HARBOUR:        posted April 4  [Source : 2102 Estuarine study by Nicolette Forbes]

 In 2008/09, 4,554 ships called at Durban – 38% of all ships that called at SA ports.

 # Those ships handled 31,4 million tons of freight worth R50 billion.

 # The value of that cargo accounts for 62% of all the cargo handled by SA ports.

 # Durban handles 61% of South Africa’s container traffic.


 # The Ethekwini area accounts for 60% of the economic activity of KZN.

 # More than 30,000 people directly and indirectly depend on Durban harbour for their  livelihoods.


posted March 30, 2012.

 A study on the state of the economy of Durban released on March 29 by the Treasury Dept of Ethekwini Metro contains significant facts about freight movements and shipping. These include: 

# A doubling in freight volumes in the next 10 years;

# R1,6 billion to be spent on deepening seven of the 15 berths at Maydon Wharf;

# R50 billion to be spent by Transnet on the development of the Dig-Out port on the  former Durban International Airport site;

# The Dig-Out port will initially comprise of 16 container berths, five automotive berths  and four bulk liquid berths, creating 2,4 million TEUs of annual capacity expanding to     9,6 TEUs;

# The Dig-Out project will generate 20,000 direct jobs and 47,000 indirect jobs.

The study also notes significant increases in freight volumes over the past two years. These are: a 9% increase in containerised imports and a 6,2% increase in containerised exports. Vehicle volumes showed a 25,9% increase in exports. It is apparent from these statistics that the development of the Dig-Out port is an unquestionable necessity. Without it, by 2018 Durban port will no longer have the capacity to cope with the volumes of container freight which are steadily increasing. And without  the Dig-Out port, freight trade will go to Coega or Richards Bay dealing Durban's economy a serious blow.


GREAT GREENING                                sent  March 29.

Despite having hosted COP 17 and pledged to ramp up efforts to 'green' Durban, it is scandalous that only R2,7 million is being budgeted for capital expenditure and expansion of D'Moss environmental services. Yet, in contrast, more than R150 million is budgeted for the salaries and attendant costs of the staffing of environmental planning and management in 2012/2013. Great 'greening' indeed!

OUR LIMITED DEMOCRATIC ELEVATOR        sent March 22 to Mercury

 The fact that our democratic elevator stops with the regional chairman of the ANC is much more than  the 'sad reality of our politics,' as your editorial 'Save our City,' stated (March 20). It is an indicator that despite having the most liberal Constitution on the Planet, when it comes down to a fundamental such as ratepayers being the arbiters of how their rates are spent, they actually do not have the final say.

 The corollary of that reality is that the public consultation process which the Metro holds as regards Budget input, is little more than a sop to the democratic process, a tick-box exercise. Ironically, the former Durban City Council which was dis-established in 1995, whilst less representative in its decision-making, certainly had more freedom in making its decisions. Put bluntly, the local government freedoms which the Constitution bestows


Vetch’s pier has redeemed itself by becoming a marine sanctuary. Historically, however, it is an expensive relic, a monument to flawed planning, poor workmanship and economic frustration.

Although potentially a major seaport, Durban’s bay was little more than an inaccessible lagoon before dredging and the construction of the north and south piers over a century ago unlocked its real worth. Nature guarded its entrance in the form of shifting sandbanks which made access to the safety of the inner harbor unpredictable and hazardous. As a result entry was restricted to small vessels drawing less than three metres of water. All other shipping had to anchor offshore and endure the extremes of wind and sea. Not surprisingly 66 ships were blown ashore on Durban’s beachfront between 1845 and 1885.

It was obvious from the outset to the British settlers that Natal’s economic prospects depended on the development of Durban harbour. For almost 50 years from 1850 the ‘harbour issue’ was the hardy annual of Natal politics and the correspondence columns of newspapers. Various plans were put forward, that of Captain James Vetch gaining the approval of Governor John Scott in 1857. Vetch, an engineer attached to the Admiralty in London, never actually visited Durban, yet he produced a report and plan to improve the harbour. Despite misgivings, it was rushed through the Natal legislature in October 1859 along with its hefty price tag -£165,000.

Vetch’s solution was to enclose the natural entrance to the harbour by means of two breakwaters, one curving northwards from the base of the Bluff headland and the other curving southwards from present day Ushaka beach. Besides the engineering challenge which that posed, Vetch’s plan ignored the prevailing wind an ocean current directions. But in August 1861 when construction of the northern breakwater commenced, such concerns were lost amidst the optimism of a growing economy and the belief that Vetch’s plan would resolve the frustrations of navigating the entrance to the harbour. A comment in the Natal Mercury on 13 July 1861 summed up the buoyant mood of colonists when it stated that Vetch’s plan would herald ‘new circumstances and be the scene of a busy, all pervading and prosperous industry.’

The site engineer, George Abernethy, encountered difficulties with Vetch’s plan from the outset. The method of construction was impractical: sections of wooden framework filled with rubble simply collapsed in the surf, moreover, the contractor, Thomas Jackson, lacked the capacity to carry out the construction. Early in 1863 it was apparent that the six year project was stalled. Yet £90,000 of the budgeted £165,000 had been spent while less than ten percent of the work had been completed.

In May 1864 a furious Natal Legislative Council demanded a detailed report on the Vetch project. In June the contractor walked off the job and left Natal. The Report tabled in August proved an embarrassing indictment. It found that no oversight had been exercised by Treasury officials on certificates for amounts payable and that the contractor had received payments in excess to that which he was entitled. It was also noted that freight for some materials had been paid for twice; that material had been ordered which was in excess of actual needs. To top it all, £113,500 or 70 percent of the allocated budget, had been spent on a project that was scarcely 20 percent complete and the problem of accessing Durban harbour was no closer to resolution.

Far from invigorating Natal’s economy, the submerged finger of an incomplete pier named after its designer, Captain Vetch, proved a drain on the colonial treasury for years to come, interest on the loan for the project amounting to about 17 percent of total revenue. A project born out of economic frustration left a legacy of even greater economic frustration.  Until the 1880s Durban harbour languished having gained a reputation as a port of high charges and long delays. But from 1886 when dredging operations began, followed by extension of the breakwaters, the depth of the entrance channel improved. By 1892 it averaged over four metres allowing larger ships to cross the bar.

But the way forward was dogged by controversy. Two camps developed: one which saw the solution in dredging, the other in the extension of the north pier. So great was the agitation that it led to the fall of the government of Harry Escombe in October 1897. Ultimately, a combination of the scour facilitated by the north and south piers and the effects of dredging resolved access to Durban harbour. In 1904, the Armadale Castle, drawing 6,7 metres of water, became the first mail-steamer to enter the port.

Although incomplete and a non-starter, the remains of Vetch’s pier should serve as a reminder of the power of the ocean and the need for fearless scrutiny of public projects.


Duncan Du Bois is engaged in post-graduate research in the school of History at UKZN. He is also a DA ward councillor.



Are property owners entitled to a view from their properties?

In terms of case law, Paola v Jeeva 2003 and Clark v Farraday 2004, there are conflicting findings on this. However, the basic guideline that emerges from those cases is that as long as National Building Regulations and Standards are being complied with and the storey size of the building being constructed is within what the zoning permits, a property owner does not do his neighbour an injury if his building obstructs his neighbour's view.  

This applies also to trees or shrubbery on a verge or in a neighbouring property.One is not permitted to cut down such natural barriers on the grounds that they are obstructing one's view. In any event, the correct approach is always to consult one's neighbour and to exchange views in a diplomatic way. There are usually good reasons why people have hedges, foliage and trees. They provide privacy, help to reduce noise, serve as a sunscreen and freshen the air. Those factors need to be respected.

VETCH'S PIER: HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF   sent to The Mercury January 13

 The controversy swirling around the proposed construction of a small craft harbour adjacent to Vetch's pier (Mercury, January 13) bears a striking resemblance to that which attended the Vetch plan in the 1860s. 

Aside from misgivings about the cost of Captain James Vetch's plan (165,000 pounds), the engineer tasked with executing it, George Abernethy, found it was faulty in two fundamental ways: the proposed entrance to the enclosed area ignored the prevailing wind and current directions. Essentially Vetch proposed an enclosed area outside the natural entrance to the bay. 

Financial reasons and poor construction methods saw  Vetch's pier abandoned in 1864. In time the ocean reduced it to what it is today. Both in design and placement, the small craft harbour now being proposed ignores the same natural forces that made Vetch's plan impractical. Besides, it specifically ignores the pounding effects of the cyclone swells which emanate occasionally from the Mozambique channel.

Eectricity Dept 42% under-staffed:

This was disclosed in answer to a question tabled at the October 31, 2011 meeting of the Ethekwini Council.

When is a concession card not a concession card?

Answer: when it is issued by ANC-ruled Ethekwini municipality which charges R50 to concession card applicants! At the October 31 meeting of the Council the ANC was the only party to vote in favour of charging R50 for the granting of a concession card. Yet the ANC claims to be the 'party for the poor.'

 Cable theft economics:

Excluding secondary economic losses, cable theft over the past five years has cost Ethekwini Municipality nearly R100 million. The cost of replacing a 350m length of stolen cable is R38,500 This was stated in a Notice of Motion at the October 31, Council meeting.


On October 21 the  Ethekwini Metro's Economic Development and Planning Committee attended an all -day workshop during which the nuts, screws and bolts of funding and promoting Durban were unpacked. For members of the Democratic Alliance the various presentations merely served to reiterate the main features of the Metro's integrated development plan.As such, they  did not break any new ground in producing solutions to sustain Durban's future funding nor did they recognise and concede the elements that are deterring economic growth.

Fundamental to Durban's future growth plans is the need to grow the rates base. Ms Soobs Moonsamy, head of the Economic Development and Planning unit, stated that the rates base would need to grow by 20% over the next 15 years in order to sustain the intended upward growth trajectory. Currently the rates base is languishing at around a one percent growth rate. As the driver of economic development in the Metro, the DA believes that a paradigm shift in thinking is needed within the Council if real economic progress is to be realised. In essence, this means abandoning the view that governments create jobs and embracing the philosophy which recognises that the role of government, at any level, is to facilitate the conditions within which jobs may be created.

The Ethekwini Council has within its grasp the resources with which to pursue real economic growth. Languishing across the Metro are numerous pieces of land that are surplus to requirements. Invariably they are poorly maintained and represent a cost to the ratepayer when they are maintained.The DA proposes that an audit of these plots is done and that as many as possible are sold off for development. In that way they will augment the rates base and relieve Council departments of the burden their maintenance places on budgets and resources. To facilitate this exercise ideology needs to be sidelined. All too often attempts to dispose of Council -owned land have been halted by political ideology within the Housing Dept which seems hell bent on spawning low-cost housing projects as widely as possible without any thought being given to the negative effect such projects have on the value of existing properties, and hence the rates base.

One of the observations made at the workshop concerned the reluctance of the private sector to intervene and to drive growth. There are sound reasons for this situation and they constitute an indictment of government. Essentially what needs to be recognised is the diminishing confidence not only of the private sector but also of  ratepayers in the service delivery capacity of government and of confidence and trust in government. Whether it involves problems of account billing or town planning zoning, the deficiencies and inefficiencies within the Ethekwini administration are a glaring phenomenon which, daily, is diminishing confidence in the ability of local government to achieve and to deliver. Until that experience and that perception changes, economic growth will continue to limp along instead of flying. 

Ironically, no mention was made at the workshop of the proposed business tax and the effect that would have on the topic under review. In similar vein, in July the Economic Development and Planning Committee failed to record a submission on the proposed Property Rates Bill. Not surprisingly, then,  the workshop neglected to consider incentives to attract and retain businesses within the Ethekwini region. Such incentives should involve water and rates tariffs. 

Unfortunately this situation is symptomatic of a larger, national reality. Hobbling growth and investment are two ideologically entrenched factors: the volatility of trade unions and BEE requirements. The runaround being given to Walmart is a case in point. Instead of facilitating and welcoming the investment of this American company, the opposite is happening. 

Whilst uncertainty in resolving these issues and the redress they merit seems set to continue to frustrate economic prospects, of one reality there is no doubt: the existing rates base of Ethekwini municipality cannot shoulder any further exactions of funding. It is tapped out and stretched to breaking point. Unless there is significant expansion of  the rates base, Durban's future funding is in trouble. 



disclosed at the meeting of the Council on Sept 27:

# 118,146 properties are valued at less than R120,000 and do not pay rates.

# The City Treasury collects R335m in rates every month.

In response to questions at the September 5 Council Meeting:


The monthly operating cost to the municipality is R5,951 million.


12 councillors are currently being provided with bodyguards.Although it varies, each of the 12 has at least two bodyguards

Since the May election the cost to the Metro for those bodyguards has been R1,34 million.


 2007        R15 million cost to the City.

2008        R16 million   "

2009        R21 million   "

2010        R22 million   "     "    "      "

Current price of copper per kg: R65.



© weblease 2011