Mervyn Dirks: A loose cannon or the people’s champion?

Johannesburg – Depending on who you speak to, under-fire ANC MP Mervyn Dirks is known as a colourful character who is radical at heart, fearless and doesn’t hold back on his
beliefs.

But to some of his comrades he is a loose cannon who can cause damage to his own cause.

The 58-year-old Dirks, who is the former deputy mayor of Msunduzi local municipality in Pietermaritzburg, was this week suspended after writing to the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) requesting the committee to haul party president Cyril Ramaphosa to explain himself.

At the heart of the furore is a leaked audio clip from an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting where Ramaphosa is heard telling the NEC that he was prepared to rather fall on his sword than to publicly reveal that state funds were used for campaigning in the lead-up to the party’s 2017 Nasrec elective conference.

Dirks has taken issue with that and wants Ramaphosa to be hauled over the coals.

His party did not, however, take kindly to his behaviour and  the party’s chief whip, Pemmy
Majodina, suspended him.

Back in KwaZulu-Natal in his hometown of Pietermaritzburg’s Northdale township, where he spends most of his time doing constituency work for his party, Derrick Martin recalls that even during the time they were together in the United Democratic Front in the 1980s, Dirks was a man of action.

“Most of us were terrified to stand up for our rights but he led from the front and confronted apartheid police head on.

He believes in radicalism and action. His crude approach to politics has made him an enemy to others, but to others he is a people’s champion,” said Martin.

Martin said Dirks had inculcated a culture within his constituency that parliamentarians should spend less time in parliament by resolving community issues on a day-to-day basis.

“He is admired for not being aloof from people on the ground and addressing their bread-and-butter issues.”

Another senior ANC  leader who served with Dirks during his tenure at the Msunduzi local municipality labelled him a “loose cannon”.

“Dirks is more of a warlord who wants to force things through, despite being out-voted. Besides his rich struggle credentials, he also has numbers, especially within the coloured townships.”

Dirks is no stranger to controversy. Some of his antics include his failed 2017 bid to collapse the state capture debate in parliament.

He was also reprimanded after calling former DA MP Phumzile van Damme a prostitute.

Dirks also recently celebrated on Twitter the fact that Ramaphosa had contracted Covid-19.

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