ANC supporters. Picture: REUTERS
ANC supporters. Picture: REUTERS

The ANC needs to address the problem of crime and the concerns of minorities if it wants to win the so-called ‘‘Indian vote’’ in the upcoming 2019 general elections, human rights lawyer and newly elected eThekwini ANC councilor Previn Vedan believes. 

The ANC beat the DA with a shock Chatsworth by-election victory three weeks ago. Vedan trounced the DA’s Fathima Ismail, who was a favourite ahead of the poll. Vedan will be formally sworn in as a councilor at the Durban city hall on Wednesday. At 26, he is the third youngest councilor in the country.

The Chatsworth ward became available earlier this year after DA ward councilor, Sharon Hoosen was moved to the KwaZulu-Natal legislature after party shake-up in the eThekwini municipality.

“Winning this ward did not come easy. Although I was the face of the campaign it was a team work, with all hands on deck. We had to unite diverse people, the communities of Shallcross and Moorton, who were worried about crime, and poor people from the informal settlement. We had to bring hope to both, we had to make them believe in unity, in the new beginning, new partnership,” said Vedan

To me it seems that being a councilor and lawyer at the same time is a match made in heaven because these tasks and duties are related to each other
Previn Vedan

“Fortunately for us, people believed in our plan. Now it is time to work, to translate this plan into reality. But it also helped that that now we have Cyril Ramaphosa as the head of the ANC and of government. When he and [police minister] Bheki Cele came here to address people on their concerns about crime, people really believed them and I think they are turning the tide against crime.”

He said the ANC needed to sit with minority communities, including Indians, and discuss problems, instead of imposing their own solutions. Vedan has started serving his community even though he has not been formally sworn in yet. But this not stopped him from hitting the ground running and he says he has already started servicing his community’s need — but he will not quit his practice as lawyer.

“To me it seems that being a councilor and lawyer at the same time is a match made in heaven because these tasks and duties are related to each other. Being a councilor is a part-time occupation. I will be managing my time better by spending 80% on my time on my council work and the other 20% on my legal practice.”

DA unimpressed

Pregasen Naidoo, a resident of Crossmoor, said in the past he had voted DA but during these by-elections he changed his mind. “I think I chose [Vedan] because he is young, energetic and has promised to bring some fundamental changes to this ward. We want this change.”

But the DA is not impressed by Vedan’s win and say the ANC used government muscle to sway the vote in its favour. Rafik Shah, the DA’s Chatsworth constituency leader, said just two days before the by-elections the MEC for human settlements, Ravi Pillay, handed out title deeds to council flat owners who had lived for decades without them.

“[The] MEC also assured flat owners that their flats would be rebuilt and renovated. We are not sore losers but we expect Vedan to fulfill his promises to the people of this ward. We will not work against him, but we will keep him on his toes.”

“The narrative spread by the ANC that it is winning [the] Indian vote is false. People are not stupid, they can see the ANC looting the VBS bank, they can see all the corruption done by ANC members. They know that Indian people of Chatsworth, of Phoenix and other Indian areas are being marginalised. As we go to the national elections we will be reminding our people about these things,” Shah said.

Kiru Naidoo, the ANC leader in Chatsworth, accused the DA of  sour grapes. He said the eThekwini municipality has long begun the process of revamping the council flats all over the metro, including the Shallcross and Crossmoor flats, and that granting people title deeds was part of this project

“The ANC won this ward free and fair. The people of this ward believe in the message of the ANC and we will ensure that Vedan delivers,” said Naidoo. “The DA don’t want to admit that they are losing touch with the local communities and the ANC is beginning to make huge inroads into the Indian areas.”