Opposition slams KZN ANC's 30-day special leave plan for eThekwini mayor
Opposition parties in the eThekwini municipality have questioned the decision by the KwaZulu-Natal ANC's provincial executive committee (PEC) to ask embattled Durban mayor Zandile Gumede to take leave of absence for 30 days.
After weeks of speculation about Gumede's position she was charged with contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act in relation to the R208m Durban solid-waste tender awarded in 2017.
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According to the charge sheet, Gumede, together with eThekwini councillor Mondli Mthembu, during December 2017 "unlawfully or wilfully deliberately influenced or attempted to influence the accounting officer, the chief financial officer, a senior manager or any other official of the municipality [to] contravene provisions of this act or refrain from complying with its requirement".
Gumede and Mthembu allegedly contravened the act by influencing the officials from the cleaning and solid-waste unit and supply chain management which resulted in "an unlawful procurement process for refuse collection; street cleaning and illegal dumping for various townships" in Durban.
The ANC PEC, which held its first lekgotla in Empangeni in northern KZN after the national general elections, also decided to disband the party's eThekwini regional executive committee, which was chaired by Gumede. The branch was due to hold its elective conference but was delayed as a result of elections.
Gumede, who is out on R50,000 bail and is due back in court in August, will be replaced by deputy mayor Fawzia Peer. The eThekwini municipality had not yet issued a statement on the latest political developments.
In an interview with TimesLIVE on Monday, Gumede said she could not answer on what would happen after her 30-day leave of absence: “The people who can answer that are the ANC provincial chairman and secretary general, because the court is still investigating and I was arrested before the investigation could be completed,” she said.
She also said her lawyers also did not agree with the 30-day leave of absence because the investigation was still not complete.
Investigating officer Col Frans Mpaki said in his affidavit before the court that the case had been brought to court before the investigation was complete because of intimidation of witnesses and fear that evidence would be destroyed.
The ANC PEC is expected to issue a statement on Tuesday on resolutions taken during its lekgotla and to give clarity on its decision on Gumede.
However, the DA in eThekwini said it was disappointed by the ANC’s PEC decision to ask Gumede to take the special leave.
“This decision comes 26 days after she was arrested on a slew of corruption-related charges and [her being] released on R50,000 bail. The ANC claim that they will use this time to decide her fate. This means that Gumede will sit at home for 30 days and earn her monthly salary of R112,000 (based on a yearly package of R1.35m). All that will happen is that she will submit leave, continue to rake in taxpayers' money and leave Durban in the lurch,” said DA’s eThekwini caucus leader Nicole Graham.
The DA, which described Gumede as a “hopeless mayor”, has called for her to be fired. “The sad part is that Gumede is still part of the regional task team, meaning the ANC still have faith in her. Our call is that it should not take the ANC 56 days to know that eThekwini residents deserve proper service delivery and committed leadership,” said Graham.
The IFP leader in the eThekwini municipality, Mdu Nkosi, said the ANC had finally given in to public pressure to act against Gumede.
“We have always said that for the investigation against her to be thorough, the mayor should not be in the municipality. The reason we said this was that there are people she was not supposed to communicate with. We would be happy if the mayor could tell the people of eThekwini what’s happening with this case.
“We requested a copy of the report on the DSW tender, but we have never been given a report, which means there is something [wrong] or the mayor is protecting the ANC. There is something to me that says they are afraid to tell her to stay away until the investigation is completed. They are afraid that there are things that the mayor will say which are going to damage the ANC. And is she suspended with pay or without pay?” said Nkosi.
ANCYL provincial secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo declined to comment on the ANC’s PEC decision, saying: “We’re [bound] by the decision of the ANC.” The ANCYL in the province has been at the forefront of calls for Gumede to step down after her arrest.