Reflections on KZN

Phumlani Majozi writes on whether his home province can be saved in 2024

I started writing this column in the air, en route to Nairobi, Kenya. I am in Kenya this week, to promote my book “Lessons from Past Heroes” and meet old friends.

It’s my fifth visit to Nairobi. I don’t know why this country loves me so much. I’m still in search of an answer. Hopefully one day, I will find it.

I have been reflecting on my home-province KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) over the past few days. I was there last week, for the launch of my book in Ballito Junction Mall.

It was a special book launch for me. Ballito is my hometown. I grew up in Groutville, 22 kilometers away from Ballito. I did my primary and secondary school education in Groutville, where I attended Aldinville Primary School and Nonhlevu Secondary.

Ballito is where I got my first job as a teenager. I do reflect on that experience in my book. So, it really was a moving book launch for me.

Some of my old high school teachers attended the launch, including Dr. Roy Naicker, who was principal during my time at Nonhlevu Secondary.

The 92-year-old Dr. Albertina Luthuli was also there I couldn’t believe it. Dr. Luthuli is eldest daughter of former President of the African National Congress (ANC), Chief Albert Luthuli. At the age of 92 she was full of life, engaged on the issues that were being discussed. She listened attentively to my presentation on South Africa’s socioeconomic affairs. I loved it!

A million thanks to the Ilembe Chamber of Business, The Robert Group Private Wealth, and the North Coast Courier newspaper. It’s these institutions that made the book launch happen.

Now on the socioeconomic state of KZN

As I drove on the N3 motorway, back to Johannesburg, the socioeconomic state and politics of KZN came to my mind.

KZN is a beautiful province, with a fascinating history. Some of KZN’s fascinating history is told in my book. In the book, borrowing from historians, I discuss The Bambatha Rebellion of 1906 and the impact it had on South Africa. The Bambatha Rebellion was one of the consequential deadly events in South Africa’s history.

Yet with that fascinating, captivating history, and the province’s beauty, like other provinces KZN faces enormous challenges, and opportunities, two months before South Africa’s most important national election since 1994.

The problems of unemployment in KZN are real and felt, as the province’s unemployment rate currently stands at 30%. That’s close to the national unemployment rate of 32%. Western Cape is the province with the lowest unemployment rate of 20%.

KZN accounts for 16% of South Africa’s GDP (gross domestic product), second to Gauteng that remains South Africa’s economic powerhouse, accounting for 33% of South Africa’s GDP. Population size seems to be a factor in GDP contribution as Gauteng and KZN are the most populous provinces in South Africa. Should these two provinces be accounting for more on GDP? Yes, they are underperforming. Their potential is greater in contrast to most provinces.

Crime rates in KZN are staggering. What’s even more disturbing is the nature of crimes in that province – some of the violent crimes are savagery, barbarism.

KZN is amongst South Africa’s provinces with the highest murders per capita. Izinkabi (hired assassins) are supplied by KZN’s notorious taxi industry. There are also political killings and conflicts between villages. The rampant violent killings are proof that our leaders have failed us in the country.

The July 2021, riots that destroyed many businesses and disrupted supplies compounded KZN’s challenges. It was disappointing that the national and provincial intelligence agencies could not anticipate the July 2021 riots and take measures to ensure they never happened.

And then there were April 2022 floods that killed more than 400 people in the province. It was heart-wrenching to see the scenes of human suffering caused by the floods. Infrastructure was severely damaged, causing serious water supply problems.

In Durban, the past few weeks were marked by service delivery protests as electricity and water outages continue to disrupt people’s lives. Durban municipality workers also went on strike, protesting for increased wages.

Durban, once beautiful and safe, is in shocking decline – becoming a filthy ghetto. It’s sad because Durban is supposed to be South Africa’s Miami. During the height of the festive season last December, six Durban beaches were closed due to poor water quality. With beach closures tourism is negatively affected.

I noticed the same thing in Pietermaritzburg – the dire conditions were appalling. Maritzburg is supposed to be one of KZN’s shining places, especially since the KZN legislature house is located there.

Reflections on KZN politics ahead of May 29 elections

South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma is reshaping the political landscape in KZN. His MK Party is doing well in polls.

The recent polls show that the ANC will suffer in KZN and Gauteng on May 29. With the ongoing electricity problems, and now water outages, the ANC is in deep trouble. Ramaphosa has failed to save it.

In my judgement, having looked at the polls, opposition parties in KZN will come out stronger in this election.

Zuma is popular and admired by many in KZN. He has a huge following. That's the reality that many of us must live with. The ANC has no personality that can match Zuma’s charisma and popularity in that province.

Having said all this, the most important question I ask, and that I believe every voter should ask, is how will the rise of the opposition parties change the direction of public policy in South Africa for the better? It's not just about political change, it’s about the country being put in the right direction.

What is disheartening is that the incompetent ANC, the EFF, and MK Party, combined, make up most of the voters. These are leftist organisations. Racist, left-wing dogmas are not what South Africa needs. The rise and growth of the right and right of center parties would have been a positive for South Africa. It’s pro-market ideas that will enrich South Africa.

KZN and Gauteng will be watched closely in this election. I see my province KZN as an opportunity for positive change. I hope the DA and IFP will come out very strongly at the election. If they were to co-govern KZN that would usher in a new era. That new era would be challenging though, as the two parties would have to rebuild a collapsed province.

I pray that the changing, shifting KZN political environment does not produce political violence. We should all pray because KZN is a volatile province. I know, I’m from there.

Phumlani M. Majozi is author of a new book “Lessons from Past Heroes” and a macroeconomist and political analyst. He’s the host of The Phumlani Majozi Show on YouTube. Subscribe to his show here: Phumlani M. Majozi - YouTube.