2021 LOCAL ELECTIONS
Jack is back: Reluctant politician takes up the cudgels for Nelson Mandela Bay
Mkhuseli ‘Khusta’ Jack will campaign for the role of mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay metro.
From the frontlines of the apartheid struggle to Save SA, the organisation that actively campaigned for the removal of former president Jacob Zuma, Mkhuseli “Khusta” Jack is back – and he is angry.
At the age of 63, Jack has thrown his hat into the ring to run for mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro in the upcoming local government elections, under the banner of the Abantu Integrity Movement (AIM), along with 58 ward councillors.
Jack, who is no stranger to the affliction of poverty in the Eastern Cape’s largest metro, says visiting local communities on the campaign trail was an eye-opener. At an informal settlement unfit for human habitation he found young people who told him that, for them, the best thing would be violence – people would kill each other, because there was nothing to live for.
“That is the level of humiliation and degradation of our people at this point in time.
“We are at the point where people say: ‘No, I don’t want to hear from you, from any politician. We don’t care who you are.’ They say to me: ‘Come with us. We will show you our houses. There is no electricity and no water.’ This is a dangerous problem. It is really pathetic for a country that prides itself on being a middle-income economy.”
Everything about Jack’s AIM has a feel of revolution about it, from the busy party headquarters in the basement of 33 Chapel Street to the energy of the party workers coming and going – but always delighted to get a smile and a high five from the party’s founder and mayoral candidate.
At the suggestion that getting involved in the unstable Nelson Mandela Bay’s local politics is like jumping into a cesspool with a bottle of Dettol, Jack laughs heartily.
“You are so right. The situation is bad. There are things that are deteriorating by the day,” he says. “Social degradation, political chaos and pandemonium permeate society as a whole. This leads to the absolute collapse of law and order. As a consequence of that the situation is accelerating to the worst it can be.”
Born on 31 May 1958 on the Mosskraal Farm in Humansdorp, Jack was denied entrance to school, so he organised protests demanding education. His protest eventually gained him access to school in then Port Elizabeth, but his continued anti-apartheid activism for education rights led to several arrests. He was part of the South African Students Movement (SASM) and the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s. In the early 1980s he played a crucial role in founding and leading the Port Elizabeth Youth Congress, part of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
As part of the struggle against apartheid, he formed street committees. Members would meet at random points on roadsides so they looked like informal gatherings and wouldn’t arouse suspicion. He recruited neighbourhood leaders to settle disputes and helped form and lead the Consumer Boycott Campaign. In 1986 he was jailed for his role in the campaign and only released three years later.
After building a successful career as a businessman, Jack, along with others, started Save SA, a campaign to have former president Jacob Zuma removed from office as allegations of corruption and state capture mounted.
If he becomes mayor he will be able to use his skills and experience as an activist and from working in the private sector.
“People know me. I have lived here all my life. I have always been a person who loves order. Order works for everyone.
“There are always people who want to break the order … but I don’t buy that. Order works for everybody.
“We want to make sure that we consistently apply rules, regulations, processes, and all those things that must be done. If you start to deviate from the rules the game is over.”
If AIM gets the necessary support, he says, they intend to stabilise the metro and fight corruption, crime, drug-dealing and drug abuse from the start.
“With the buy-in from society I am convinced that I am the right man for the job. I am totally opposed to those things. My life is a mirror image of what I am talking about. All my life.
“Therefore we will be able to root out criminality as priority number one.”
AIM is choosing councillors who are not looking for a job but who are looking to help create jobs. Jack believes he is qualified to facilitate this because, as a businessman, he has created many jobs and has helped people to create their own small enterprises.
He says the basic skills needed for a ward councillor are to be able to read and write, but most importantly they need to listen to residents and bring their issues to the council – and then go back to residents to give feedback. And then, if nothing happens, go back to council and say: “My people are still waiting. What is going on?”
He says he has full confidence in the people AIM have found: they are very capable. “We looked for people who were already skilled in doing just that and who are at least familiar with project management. Because of that we think our ward candidates are of a higher quality than the others.”
AIM has also established an advisory panel called the Council of Elders, headed by retired Bishop George Irvine, to provide guidance and oversight. He has assembled a team of experts to advise on the right direction to take.
“I don’t believe in plastering over the cracks like this municipality is doing. It is not sustainable,” Jack says. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.
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