Supporters of criminally charged Durban mayor Zandile Gumede are adamant that the African National Congress (ANC) has not followed due process when dealing with Gumede and are insisting she be reinstated as mayor.
Gumede is set to return to her official duties on Thursday, but she is facing strong opposition from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and civil rights organisations such as OUTA.
Gumede faces charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering
The mayor was placed on leave, courtesy of the ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC), while it decided how to best handle the public relations nightmare without prejudicing Gumede’s rights.
The party has also said it used the leave period to investigate allegations that the charges against her may have been politically motivated.
One of Gumede’s staunch supporters, ANC eThekwini Ward 33 branch member Mzo Dube, told African News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday night that “99%” of the branches in the eThekwini Region were behind Gumede returning to work and had never agreed with the forced leave.
Gumede was also the chairperson of the ANC eThekwini Region until it was disbanded and a task team instated by the PEC.
“What has happened to mayor Gumede is not consistent with the law and can’t be condoned,” Dube told ANA.
Dube has organised several protests at the party’s Durban provincial head office since Gumede was placed on leave.
Hundreds of the mayor’s supporters – the majority dressed in ANC regalia – have gathered outside the offices on three occasions to voice their anger at the decision taken by provincial leadership.
Dube said the supporters could not marry Gumede’s forced leave with any terms of reference within the ANC.
“The PEC is a legal structure, when they make decisions, those decisions must be aligned to the ANC constitution and the country’s Constitution. When the PEC has made a mistake, as they have done with mayor Gumede, it is incumbent on the branches of the ANC to set the PEC straight,” he said.
Gumede was charged in mid-May along with two co-accused – ANC councillor Mondli Mthembu and businessman Craig Poonan – for alleged tender fraud, corruption and racketeering relating to a 2016 Durban Solid Waste contract worth R208 million.
Several others were arrested two weeks prior to the trio’s arrest for their alleged roles in the same case. All of the accused were released on bail and will appear again in August.
It was alleged in court, among other things, that the mayor influenced the awarding of tenders, ordered administration staff to break the law and organised a march against the city manager, Sipho Nzuza, calling for his axing after he refused to pay the companies for the irregular contracts they had obtained.
Dube refused to say if he had read the damning affidavit submitted by the lead investigator in the case and instead questioned Gumede’s authority to approve contracts.
“I am not a legal guru; even if I have read the charge sheet [or affidavit] it is not my field.
“The mayor is not an executive mayor. How then did she award tenders? If there was any criminal behaviour happening, why didn’t the city manager report it? He is the administrative head and she is the political head. It is up to him to report wrongdoing.”
It is understood that Nzuza has turned state witness in the case, although he has not confirmed this.