Pandemonium as eThekwini mayor granted bail in corruption case

Zandile Gumede, the mayor of the eThekwini metropolitan municipality — and two other accused have been granted bail of R50 000 after appearing in the Durban commercial crimes court on charges of municipal tender fraud amounting to R130-million.

There was pandemonium outside the courtroom as Gumede’s supporters intimidated journalists and blocked photographers from taking her picture as she left the court.

Gumede, who was not asked to plead, made a brief bail application before magistrate Dawn Somaroo along with senior ANC councillor Mondli Mthembu and contractor Craig Ponan.

Gumede and Mthembu, the ANC deputy regional secretary and chairperson of the eThekwini municipality’s infrastructure and human settlements committee, were told that their bail would be revoked if there was ‘any hint’ they had interfered with or intimidated witnesses in the case which was still under investigation.

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The pair was allowed to continue doing their jobs at council, but are barred from any council activity or process related to the case for which they appeared in court.

Gumede, Mthembu and Ponan handed themselves over to the Hawks on Tuesday morning ahead of the court appearance and will appear in court again on August 8 along with the 13 other suspects who were arrested in connection with the scam earlier this month.

Gumede, dressed in a red and grey suit and wearing pearls, looked on impassively throughout the hearing, which took less than an hour to complete.

The state claims Robert Abbu, the deputy head of Durban Solid Waste (DSW), and Sandile Ngcobo, the city’s supply chain manager, conspired to manipulate a three-year refuse removal contract which had expired in 2016.

After delaying the reappointment of the contract, which had a budget of R5-million, Abbu and Ngcobo allegedly used emergency powers to appoint four contractors to the tender, which had previously been awarded to 27 waste removal contractors.

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Presenting an affidavit by the investigating team, prosecutor Ashika Lucken said the contract had then been extended, with the assistance of Ngcobo — who is also the city’s bid adjudication committee chairperson — to R130-million within six months.

Lucken said the contractors were not on the city’s database and had no infrastructure, staff or skills in waste management and were essentially given the money for work that was not done.

Lucken said there had been “political interference” in the case, with the city’s integrity unit head failing to provide information to investigators.

Gumede and Mthembu had also been involved in the staging of a march to try and force the city manager, Sipho Nzuza, to resign last month, Lucken added.

Lucken said the Hawks had been forced to make the arrests before the investigation had been completed because of the intimidation of witnesses in the case.

READ MORE: eThekwini probes ‘bribe’ phone call

The case had been placed on the roll before it was completed “to allow the investigation to be completed without attempts to intimidate witnesses or interfere with the investigation,” she explained.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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