South Africa

Newsflash

ANC recycles corruption accused Zandile Gumede to KZN legislature

ANC recycles corruption accused Zandile Gumede to KZN legislature
Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. (Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Jackie Clausen)

ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala has told Daily Maverick that the party shifted former eThekwini mayor and corruption accused, Zandile Gumede, to the provincial legislature because it was “untenable” to have her involved in the affairs of the city.

On Wednesday morning Zandile Gumede was sworn in as a Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature.

This despite her facing various criminal charges relating to fraud allegedly committed while she was mayor of eThekwini.

Gumede, along with several others including councillors, service providers and officials, stands accused of corruption for her alleged role in the handling of lucrative waste-related contracts currently valued at R430-million. She is out on R50,000 bail as the case continues. 

Zikalala, who admitted that the case against Gumede “is strong”, conceded that it was better to have her out of the metro than in.

“The case is strong, but to move her out of the municipality is better than keeping her in the municipality until the case is finalised. It was untenable to have her as a councillor; that is why she has been moved out,” he told Daily Maverick on Wednesday.

eThekwini municipal manager to join Zandile Gumede in court

Gumede was removed as eThekwini mayor last year, but remained as a proportional representative councillor.

The announcement comes as the country grapples with widespread allegations of looting of Covid-19 funds in several ANC-run provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal.

KZN Premier releases tender report to get ahead of scandal

The public outcry over the looting of the emergency funds has seen several officials suspended pending investigations. Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko and Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku have taken special leave following allegations that their close relationship influenced the awarding of a multi-million rand PPE tender to Diko’s husband. The tender was subsequently withdrawn.

Gumede replaces former ANC spokesperson Ricardo Mthembu in the KZN legislature. Mthembu died of Covid-19 in July.

Death of respected ANC KZN politician weakens Premier Zikalala

In a statement released by the ANC’s provincial office, it said the party “welcomes the appointment of Comrade Zandile Gumede as the member of KwaZulu-Natal legislature”.

“The ANC KZN is fully aware of detractors who will seek to use Cde Gumede’s ongoing court case to criticise the appointment, however, we subscribe to the notion of innocent until proven guilty as enshrined in our justice system and, as such, there is nothing untoward about the appointment of Cde Gumede. 

“As a firm believer in women empowerment, the ANC KZN is confident that Cde Gumede, with her experience, is a worthwhile addition to the legislature,” said provincial spokesperson, Nhlakanipho Ntombela.

Gumede served as mayor from 2016 to August 2019, until she was removed by the ANC. The party denied her removal was because of the corruption allegations and resultant public outcry.

When she was removed, the ANC said she was axed as mayor due to the “continuous and sustained decline of the quality of service delivery” in eThekwini, claiming that the charges she faced were not factored into the decision.

Nearly the entire executive council that served with Gumede was also removed. The party did much the same in Pietermaritzburg (Msunduzi municipality), saying those who had been sacked had not performed to the required standards of governance, citing costly legal bills that diverted money from service delivery as one of its reasons to justify Gumede’s deployment. The metro was involved in 399 cases of litigation at the time.

Gumede fought her axing, even though the party stated publicly that she would be redeployed, with provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli saying at the time that she may have just been “a round peg in a square hole”.

Gumede remains part of the task team convened to ready the eThekwini ANC region (the biggest in the country) for its elective conference, over which she was chairman. She is seeking re-election. The conference was expected to be held in April, but was postponed due to lockdown.

After Thursday’s swearing in, Gumede, speaking in isiZulu, said she was “happy” with her appointment. “Especially with this being Women’s Month, [the] ANC has shown that it cares.

“I often tell people in the ANC how important it is to be patient and accept decisions taken by the party, because whatever decisions the ANC takes, it doesn’t make mistakes,” she said.

Members of the ANC provincial executive committee in KZN, who spoke to Daily Maverick on strict condition of anonymity, were not as thrilled.

“It’s not what some of us wanted, but she remains powerful in eThekwini, and there are things going on behind the scenes that have to be managed.”

Another PEC member acknowledged the decision was “purely political”.  “She has a lot of say in the region. To keep it strong, she must be [placated].” DM

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