Age of Accountability

Accused No 1: Zandile Gumede and co-accused bumped to the top of long corruption case indictment

By Des Erasmus 14 June 2021
Caption
Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede in the Durban High Court on charges of fraud and corruption involving a R208-million tender. Photo: Sandile Ndlovu/Pool

Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede has shifted to ‘first place’ on the State’s amended indictment in the R320-million Durban Solid Waste corruption case, which has resulted in a host of ANC councillors, officials – including the municipal manager – and business owners being criminally charged since 2019.

Des Erasmus

Previously accused 16, Zandile Gumede (58) now takes pole position as accused number one. 

Former senior ANC eThekwini councillor Mondli Mthembu has also moved up the ranks from accused 15 to accused number two. Suspended city manager Sipho Nzuza is now accused number three. He was previously number 17. 

The trio was seated in the dock of the Durban High Court on Monday throughout proceedings, while their co-accused flowed across several court benches. 

The ANC heavyweight and her 21 co-accused – five of which are companies – were appearing for what should have been a pre-trial conference. 

That, however, had to be delayed to 30 November so that the State could furnish the defence with further particulars following the filing of the amended indictment, which now includes racketeering charges. 

Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and municipality manager Sipho Nzuza in the Durban High Court. Photo: Sandile Ndlovu/Pool

Gumede strode briskly from the van transporting her to the court precinct, pushed her way through a gaggle of excited journalists, and made her way to courtroom B, where she sullenly settled on a wooden bench until being called in.  

Once inside, she was greeted by Nzuza, who leant over her and whispered something evidently funny enough to elicit guffaws from both. 

Proceedings were rote. 

Senior prosecutor Ashika Lucken told KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Achmat Jappie that the pre-trial conference could not proceed because “certain matters” had come to light, including that the attorneys for some of the accused had withdrawn. 

Senior counsel Jimmy Howse and attorney Carl van Der Merwe later informed Jappie that they were trying to sort out payment for their services – the result of the assets of their clients being seized. 

Howse is representing accused five Sandile Ngcobo, while Van Der Merwe is representing accused 15 Bongani Dlomo, accused 16 Khoboso Dlomo and their company, Omphile Thabang Projects, accused 17.  

A Zandile Gumede supporter at the mobile stage set up outside the court precinct. Photo: Des Erasmus

Howse said he had made an application for the release of  “substantial assets in the form of cash” from the Asset Forfeiture Unit last week. He told Jappie he was “meeting resistance” in getting the assets released “and I am not sure why”. 

As previously reported by Daily Maverick, Ngcobo was chairperson of eThekwini’s Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC) at the time of the alleged tender corruption. He was shifted to the municipality’s disaster management unit in October 2020 to circumnavigate his bail conditions and remain employed.

It was decided by Jappie that the defence teams should file their request for particulars relating to the amended indictment by 15 August, and that the State should respond by 15 October. Thereafter, all parties would meet again on 30 November to ascertain whether they were ready for the tentative trial date of 18 July 2022. 

According to the amended indictment, the accused are now, in order: 

  1. Zandile Gumede;
  2. Mondli Mthembu;
  3. Sipho Nzuza;
  4. Robert Abbu, who at the time of the alleged crimes was Durban Solid Waste’s deputy head for strategic and new developments;
  5. Sandile Ngcobo;
  6. Councillor Mthokozisi Nojiyeza;
  7. Councillor Sduduzo Khuzwayo;
  8. Councillor Bhekokwakhe Phewa;
  9. Bagcinile Nzuza, the wife of Sipho Nzuza;
  10. Project manager Hlenga Sibisi;
  11. Businessman Mzwandile Dladla;
  12. Dladla’s company Ilanga la Mahlase Pty Ltd;
  13. Businessman Zithulele Mkhize;
  14. Mkhize’s company Uzuzinekele Trading CC;
  15. Businessman Bongani Dlomo;
  16. Businessman Khoboso Dlomo;
  17. The Dlomos’ company, Omphile Thabang Projects;
  18. Businessman Craig Ponnan;
  19. Businessman Prabagaran Pariah;
  20. Pariah’s company El Shaddai Holdings Group CC;
  21. Businesswoman Sithamone Ponnan; and
  22. Ponnan’s company Umvuyo Holdings Group CC.

The accused are together facing 2,793 different counts on charges that include racketeering, fraud, fraud by omission, corruption, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act, contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, contravention of the Organised Crime Act and contravention of the Local Government Municipal Systems Act. 

According to the amended indictment, the accused “formed an enterprise” – the basis for facing racketeering offences.

“At all relevant times to the indictment, Gumede, Mthembu, Sipho Nzuza, Abbu and Ngcobo were a group of individuals associated… and thus formed an enterprise as defined in Section 1 of the [Prevention of Organised Crime] Act.”

The accused allegedly used iLanga La Mahlase (Pty) Ltd, Uzuinekele Trading, Omphile Thabang Projects and Umvuyo Holdings CC to take part in the unlawful activities of the enterprise.

The indictment states that “the purpose of their association was to influence and manipulate the Durban Solid Waste Contracts via the [supply chain management] system of eThekwini Municipality” and once this was done, a “new DSW contract was then classified as a special project”.

“Abbu, on the instruction of Gumede and Mthembu, was appointed by Sipho Nzuza as head of special projects (a position specially created for him). Further, Nzuza then appointed Ngcobo as chairperson of the BAC for this specific project to ensure the appointment of the four preferred services providers”. 

The special projects became the vehicle to drive the enterprise and the resultant fraud and corruption, to ensure that contracts were awarded to entities associated with Sibisi, Mzwandile Dludla, Zithulele Mkhize, Bongani Dlomo, Khoboso Dlomo, Craig Ponnan, Prabagaran Pariah and Sithamone Ponnan for the supply of services to eThekwini Municipality. 

Zandile Gumede in the Durban High Court. Photo: Sandile Ndlovu/Pool

“This conduct would lead to their personal financial and/or non-patrimonial benefit and/or to the financial benefit of the associated group of individuals.”

The indictment further states that councillors Nojiyeza, Khuzwayo and Phewa, part of the ANC’s so-called Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction “and other councillors of the municipality, their political constituents and associates” aligned themselves with Gumede, Mthembu, Nzuza, Abbu and Ngcobo.

Gumede and Mthembu allegedly enabled several ANC ward councillors, ward committee members, members of business forums and organisations such as the MKMVA and Amadelangokubona business forum to benefit from the DSW tender so that Gumede would be viewed in a favourable light by the RET faction and be elevated politically. 

Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, former councillor Mondli Mthembu and municipality manager Sipho Nzuza in the Durban High Court. Photo: Sandile Ndlovu/Pool

As for Nzuza’s wife, Bagcinile, the indictment said she facilitated and participated in engagements with entities associated with the DSW tender “at all times when material decisions were being made in respect of the said tender”. 

Hundreds of Gumede’s supporters – clad in ANC regalia – gathered outside the court, where a mobile stage had been erected. There, speakers pledged support for the former mayor, Jacob Zuma and for suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule. 

According to Gumede’s supporters, the case is politically driven and a means to stop her contesting the upcoming ANC eThekwini regional conference. Gumede is a previous chair of the region and is set to be nominated by local branches to again take the powerful position. DM

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All Comments 13

    • Far from it I think, more like “birds of a feather flock together”. Miscreants look up to miscreants as their role models, that’s the only way for them to thrive.

      The supporters are just self interested individuals who want to ensure their heros, their future employers/ ‘business partners) remain free to employ them in the future, the cycle continues!

    • That’s where we are wrong. These are not stupid people, they know that if their 3 benefactors go to jail, the trough will run dry and they are screwed. They might have to work for a living!

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if the ANC accused of corruption would come up with an original statement instead of every case being “politically driven” – it’s so old & stale especially when the accused have mountains of evidence against them.

  • Gumede is a major Zumavirus infected person. In the mould of Mokonyane,Dlamini and Myeni. Scurrilous abuser of taxpayer/ratepayer funds. Those lice carrying placards they probably cant read dont impress me. Mr.Howse ask Gumede and co how they can bus in supporters clothe and feed them but cant pay your bills.

  • …and there she stood, in front of a thousand or more of her supporters, speaking in Zulu, which I by-and-largely understand, telling all whom wishes to listen, how innocent she is, how wonderful she is, and if is was not for her, the country would have crashed even before van Riebeeck, Shaka and Mandela’s time. How tired I am of all this bullshit from ANC so-called leaders. Every 3rd article in any news medium is about the ANC. For F…sake, they can’t even keep the lights on. And the masses with their cheap ANC t-shirts yelling, screaming, cheering for one of the most useless individuals that even a pathetic ANC are ashamed of. And still we, the tax payer pay for her massive income, and all the benefits associated with her, now past in a suspended role, position.

  • The same old sickening story- the accused cry “politically driven, “despite mountains of hard evidence against them !Shame is an unknown feeling.

  • She is OBVIOUSLY guilty on all charges. Who laughs last laughs the loudest.

    When all these buffoon who keep on voting for her and for the ANC realise that they have zero pensions left because the PIC/SAA deal sucked them dry, and they are left stranded in a retirement of poverty… maybe that will be the wakeup call for the masses to vote for the future and not because of the past.

  • the audacity of the corrupt ! and just as bad, those that defend the vile thieving and delusion; all this while the masses starve. what an absolute disgrace.

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