Mama hits back at her detractors

Leadership challenge: Zandile Gumede (above) is in danger of being supplanted by the ANC’s eThekwini secretary Bheki Ntuli. (Jackie Klausen/The Times)

Leadership challenge: Zandile Gumede (above) is in danger of being supplanted by the ANC’s eThekwini secretary Bheki Ntuli. (Jackie Klausen/The Times)

Durban mayor and eThekwini ANC chairperson Zandile Gumede appears to have fallen out of favour with her backers in the city and will face a serious challenge to her leadership when the party’s regional conference sits next year.

Gumede, who championed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s unsuccessful bid for the ANC presidency in December, has alienated some of her own supporters because of her backing of the failed re-election of provincial secretary Super Zuma last month. Gumede pushed the “status quo” slate — backed by former president Jacob Zuma — which was defeated by a “unity” leadership that backed Mdumiseni Ntuli for the post.

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Now Gumede faces a backlash in her own region, the largest and most influential in the ANC, with eThekwini secretary Bheki Ntuli being mooted as a candidate for both her disgruntled supporters and followers of former chairperson James Nxumalo.

Gumede defeated Nxumalo, who backed Cyril Ramaphosa, at the 2015 regional conference, which was postponed several times and twice had its result set aside by the national leadership over irregularities.

Although the conference is due to be held in December, it is likely to be postponed until after the national elections because the ANC national executive committee had ruled that all conferences after the end of August should be deferred so as not to affect the party’s campaign.

An ANC source in eThekwini, who asked to remain anonymous, said that a realignment was taking place between some of Gumede’s supporters and backers of Nxumalo because of her insistence on backing the “status quo” slate.

“Comrades are tired of the mess in the region and are looking at who to support as a new chairperson,” the source said. “There is anger because the status quo was out of step with the rest of the province.
There are also concerns about the city administration. We cannot afford to lose eThekwini, the last metro held by the ANC.”

He said the success of the unity slate had encouraged branch members to “seek each other out” and find an alternative candidate.

“James [Nxumalo] won’t stand. There is a thinking that we back Bheki Ntuli, the secretary, and move the region ahead,’’ the source said.

“What happened at Nasrec [elective conference] and in the province has given people hope that the region can see change.”

But one of Gumede’s supporters, who also asked to remain anonymous, said Gumede would stand successfully for a second term. “We still believe Mama is the right candidate. Bheki doesn’t have the numbers to stand against her even with James’s branches with him. They met in Pinetown after the conference but couldn’t decide on a candidate.”

The source said the corruption allegations against Gumede, made by a local businessperson who claimed to have paid her R100 000 for the ANC in 2015, were linked to the party’s internal dynamics. “This is all politics,” he said. “These contracts had nothing to do with Mama.”

Gumede has also become embroiled in conflict with her former backers from the Delangokubona Business Forum about refuse removal contracts in the South Durban area.

They are now accusing her of backtracking on “radical economic transformation” because their contract will not be renewed. Last week contractors dumped rubbish in Umlazi and Isipingo, and the venue for a city business fair in the area was petrol bombed at the weekend.

Ntuli this week said relations between him and Gumede were “comradely and cordial. There is no bad blood. We have full confidence in the current leadership of the region and the province.”

Ntuli said the corruption claims were aimed at promoting disunity in the ANC.

On Wednesday, Gumede used her address to a women’s month event hosted by a local newspaper group to hit back at her detractors, saying they were part of a “propaganda campaign against her”.

“As Jesus once said, a prophet is honoured everywhere except in his own home town and among his relatives and family,” she said.

Gumede said the media was being used “for attacks based on propaganda philosophy, repeating lies until people believe them as true”.

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“The truth remains that I am not corrupt and nobody is investigating me. I am having such cases because the first time I came to the office I said I’m not going to be leaving my women behind. Change must happen,” she said.

“They are trying to tear me apart because, the second thing that I did, I approved a radical economic framework. I felt it was important. No one must eat that big cake alone. It must be shared by everyone. That is why I’m suffering like this,” she said.

Gumede is considering legal action against her accusers.

“If left unchallenged people will believe I am a corrupt woman, yet I’m not. I have not stolen a single cent from the poor ... I know what it means to be poor,” Gumede said.

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