Court sets date for ex-mayor Zandile Gumede’s tender fraud trial
A trial date has been set for former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and 21 co-accused to answer to charges relating to a multimillion-rand Durban Solid Waste tender fraud.
On Tuesday, 29 March, former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and her co-accused appeared briefly in the Durban High Court for a pre-trial hearing where legal representatives ironed out issues relating to outstanding documents needed to finalise their heads of arguments and plea explanations.
The State will call 41 witnesses to testify against Gumede (accused 1); city councillor Mondli Mthembu (accused 2); city manager Sipho Nzuza (accused 3); Allan Abbu (accused 4), who was employed as city manager; Sandile Ngcobo (accused 5), who was deputy head of supply chain management at the municipality; councillor Mthokozisi Nojiyeza (accused 6); councillor Sduduzo Khuzwayo (accused 7); councillor Bhekokwakhe Phewa (accused 8); Bagcinile Nzuza (accused 9); Hlenga Sibisi (accused 10): Mzwandile Dludla (accused 11); Ilanga La Mahlase PTY (Ltd) (accused 12) a private company, represented by Mzwandile Dludla; Zithulele Mkhize (13); Uzuzinekele Trading 31 CC (accused 14), represented by Mkhize; Bongani Dlomo (accused 15); Khoboso Dlomo (accused 16); Omphile Thabang Projects (accused 17), a corporate body represented by Bongani Dlomo and Khoboso Dlomo; Craig Ponnan (accused 18); Prabagaran Pariah (accused 19); El Shaddai Holdings Group CC (accused 20); Sithamone Ponnan (accused 21); and Umvuyo Holdings CC (accused 22).
The group faces 2,793 charges, including contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, conducting an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering, fraud, theft, corruption, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act, and contravention of the Local Government: Municipal System Act.
According to the indictment, the money trail shows:
- Ilanga was allegedly paid an amount of R89,692,737.22 by the eThekwini Municipality/DSW for services rendered;
- Omphile was purportedly paid R67,143,196.85;
- El Shaddai was alleged to have been paid R52,487,890.21. El Shaddai allegedly paid R3,970,000 into the bank account of Uzuzinekela. El Shaddai allegedly also paid R48,795,054.30 into the bank account of Umvuyo controlled by Ponnan. Some of the disbursements from Umvuyo’s bank account included R9,440,000 into the account of El Shaddai, of which R3,703,497.82 was paid towards the purchase of a Lamborghini and R1,477,051.20 towards the purchase of a Mercedes-Benz; and
- On 26 April 2018, Ilanga is alleged to have transferred R28,000 into the bank account of ZP Gumede, daughter Gumede. Ilanga is also alleged to have paid R100,000 to the Radical Economic Transformation Federation on 7 February 2018.
The State case against Gumede is that she allegedly used her position as mayor to influence or instruct Mthembu, Nzuza, Abbu and Ngcobo to circumvent the lawful supply chain management process for the DSW tender and cause the irregular award of the tender to entities Ilanga, El Shaddai, Omphile Thabang and Uzuzinekela.
The racketeering, the State contends, was allegedly committed between December 2017 and July 2019 in Durban. It is also the State’s contention that the accused are guilty of contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, the use of property derived from a pattern of racketeering which was purportedly committed during January 2017 to July 2019 that is linked to a solid waste management tender worth more than R340-million.
The State argues that Gumede, Mthembu, Nzuza, Abbu, Ngcobo, Bagcinile Nzuza actively associated themselves with common purpose and allegedly worked together to manipulate the procurement process to ensure the achievement of their common goal that orders or contracts be awarded to specific suppliers.
The papers further indicate the accused were employees within the administration of the municipality as councillors, their political constituents, associates and persons proximate to the political organisation of accused Gumede and Mthembu. It is argued that they actively worked together to manipulate the procurement process to ensure that the common goal of the DSW tender being awarded to Ilanga la Mahlase PTY (Ltd), Uzuzinekele, Omphile Thabang Projects and El Shaddai Holdings Group CC.
The main count against the accused is that of racketeering where the State argues that Gumede, Mthembu, Nzuza, Abbu and Ngcobo are a group of individuals associated in fact and thus formed an enterprise while the association of the remaining accused forms part of this enterprise.
“The purpose of their association was to influence and manipulate the DSW Contracts via the supply chain management system of eThekwini Municipality. The new DWS contract was then classified as a ‘special project’ wherein accused Abbu, on instruction of Gumede and Mthembu, was appointed by Nzuza as head of the Special Projects.
“Further, Nzuza then appointed Ngcobo as the chairperson for this specific project to ensure the appointment of the Abbu preferred service providers. The Special Projects became the vehicle to drive the enterprise,” the indictment reads.
The State claims that Noyiyeza, Khuzwayo and Phewathey, along with other councillors in the municipality, their political constituents and associates aligned themselves with the will of Gumede, Mthembu, Nzuza, Abbu and Ngcobo.
“Gumede and Mthembu enabled large numbers of ANC councillors, ward committee members, members of business forums and organisations like the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association and Ama Delangokubona, to benefit financially from the new DSW contract, thus increasing the possibility of being favourably regarded in the political arena by these beneficiaries because of the continued benefit that they received,” the indictment reads.
Gumede and her co-accused will appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 18 July 2022 when they will be expected to enter a plea explanation. DM