Backers of embattled Durban mayor hit out at ANC KZN secretary

15 July 2019 - 19:24 By Orrin Singh
ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli.
ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli.

A group made up of ANC councillors and branch leaders in eThekwini have called out the party's provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli for allegedly “personally benefiting” from contracts awarded to four companies linked to the ongoing criminal investigations into city mayor Zandile Gumede.

During a media briefing in Durban on Monday, three ANC members, claiming to represent 85% of the branches in eThekwini, said they were not Gumede supporters, but were merely protecting the principle of the matter at hand.

They claimed the party had not followed proper procedures in taking a decision to have Gumede and senior councillor Mondli Mthembu – who are facing graft charges linked to a R208m Durban Solid Waste (DSW) contract dating back to 2016 – take 30 days' leave of absence from office.

Their claims come after four companies - Omphile Thabang Projects, Ilanga LaMahlase Projects Pty Ltd, Uzuzinekele Trading 31 cc and El Shaddai Holdings Group cc – were granted an extension of their contract periods during a sitting of the city's executive committee last month.

The report, presented to the executive committee, detailed all public tender awards inclusive of Regulation 36 awards made by the city during the month of May 2019.

Section 36 of the supply chain management (SCM) regulations allows for deviation from normal tender processes in the awarding of contracts in those situations deemed to be emergencies.

Head of treasury Krish Kumar told TimesLIVE he could not comment on the matter as it was sub judice. 

Nduduzo Magwaza, one of the conveners of the media briefing, said the role of Ntuli needed to be scrutinised.

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“It is our contention that the provincial secretary of the ANC is trying to run a parallel government. In a sense that the very same provincial secretary sat in meetings with officials of eThekwini municipality, instructing them to give these four companies an extension on their contracts [sic].”

Magwaza said the companies were never suspended by the municipality on the basis that there was a cloud over their heads.

“There is word on the street that he [Ntuli] is personally benefiting from these contractors. Comrade Zandile Gumede was not part of a meeting where they agreed to give these contractors section 36.”

He alleged that the meeting had been chaired by Ntuli, the city manager Sipho Nzuza and regional secretary Bheki Ntuli, among other officials.

“That is the issue we are dealing with, we are dealing with a provincial secretary that is highly compromised because one of his 'brothers' is contesting in the eThekwini region – in the form of Bheki Ntuli – so he may not come here and be an objective broker on the matter,” said Magwaza.

Responding to the allegations, ANC provincial spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said a provincial secretary could never sit in on any council meeting with any municipality.

"They oversee the meeting from a distance."

She said if certain comrades had proof to substantiate their allegations they should provide them to the police. 

Commenting on Nzuza and Ntuli's relationship, Simelane-Zulu said the party had not known who Nzuza was until he was hired. 

"A municipal manager or city manager is appointed by the council or executive council. He was never known by the ANC before the council in the municipality hired him, they had head hunted him from Cape Town. Furthermore, when he was appointed, Mdumiseni Ntuli was not provincial secretary."

Simelane-Zulu said if aggrieved comrades were unhappy with the provincial executive committee's decision and handling of the matter thus far, they were free to go to the ANC's national executive committee and make their voices heard because the NEC oversees all decisions taken by the PEC.

Another branch leader Mzomuhle Dube said the decision to suspend Gumede and Mthembu from council was illegal, baseless and tantamount to persecution.

“There is no conference resolution that says comrades who are charged must step down or be suspended for 30 days, however the province reached such an illegal and populist decision without mandate from branches that recently elected it to office.”

Dube called on Gumede and Mthembu to seek legal advice after he claimed they were being abused for being disciplined cadres.

“They will take the fall for a tender that was never adjudicated nor signed by them. The suspension of mayor Gumede and cllr Mthembu, while [sic] leaving behind the city manager, who is deployed by the ANC to council, is a clear indication that this case is political.”

Dube said Nzuza was the accounting officer in the matter and had many questions to answer to the public.

He said they were awaiting comment from the party's secretary general, Ace Magashule, after informing him, in a formal letter, of their unhappiness regarding the matter. 

The case against Gumede is set to resume on August 8.