Despair as corruption-busting Newcastle mayor calls it quits
Official opts to rejoin the legal profession after receiving death threats
The resignation of Newcastle mayor Makhosini Nkosi has sent shockwaves through the KwaZulu-Natal political establishment and left the province’s anticorruption drive in tatters.
Nkosi, an advocate known for his crusade against corrupt practices in the province, tendered his resignation to ANC regional leaders and to the Newcastle municipality manager on Monday. He is rejoining the legal profession where he has just been admitted to the Durban Bar.
There are many examples of political leaders and municipal officials who had been killed in recent years for fighting corruption.
The list includes former ANC Youth League secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa who, together with two other councillors, was ambushed outside Umzimkhulu in 2018. Former Richmond municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole was killed execution-style in his car, also in 2018, as was Umzimkhulu municipality speaker Khaya Thobela two years ago.
“It is clear that he [Nkosi] feared for his life because he had stepped on sensitive toes and nobody can blame him for resigning,” one of his associates said.
Nkosi recently told close associates and his ANC colleagues that he had received death threats following his efforts to root out corruption in the northern KwaZulu-Natal municipality.
A number of top government and municipal officials were implicated in multimillion-rand tender-rigging exercises.
Nkosi became the Newcastle mayor after the 2016 local government elections. Soon after taking over, he clamped down down on wasteful expenditure, cronyism and tenderpreneurs.
In 2018 he said he had received several death threats from people connected to wrongdoing at the municipality.
In a text message on Monday evening, Nkosi confirmed that he has left the municipality, saying he had “resigned voluntarily without any pressure or instruction from the ANC”.
A close associate, who asked not to be named, said Nkosi had complained to the ANC leadership that he was not getting enough support from the party and fellow councilors to fight corruption.
“In the end he felt it would be better to leave the municipality and save his life. He has a young family and he could not risk his life and their well-being for fighting a thankless war,” said the associate.
The provincial leadership of the ANC said it had noted Nkosi’s resignation. It is believed that behind-the-scenes efforts are being made to persuade him to reconsider his resignation.
Bheki Mngomezulu, an independent political analyst, said Nkosi clearly felt pressure to resign from those who had been benefiting from the looting of public resources for their own selfish ends.
“If we allow this situation to continue what message are we sending to the youth if people who are anti-corruption are blasted from the face of the earth. We are teaching them to buy into the corrupt practices,” Mngomezulu said.
Correction: January 15, 2019
An earlier version of this article had an incorrect picture of Makhosini Nkosi.