eThekwini mayor’s supporters demand she is returned to office

Zandile Gumede’s backers insist that she is innocent and is the victim of an ongoing purge. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP)

Zandile Gumede’s backers insist that she is innocent and is the victim of an ongoing purge. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP)

Embattled eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede’s supporters have revolted against the ANC’s decision to place her on enforced leave.

They have also rejected the disbandment of the ANC’s eThekwini region — of which Gumede is chairperson — and the regional task team (RTT) appointed to replace it and run the region ahead of its elective conference later this year.

On Wednesday an attempt by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial ANC to convince the region’s 110 branches to accept its resolutions, which forced Gumede to take 30 days leave while they consider her matter, failed.

According to a briefing note circulated among the branches — the leaders of which attended the meeting with ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli and provincial executive council (PEC) members Sipho Hlomuka, Kwazi Mshengu, who is the regional task team convener, and regional secretary Bheki Ntuli — rejected “most, if not all of the decisions imposed on eThekwini branches by the ANC PEC”.

Although the branches accepted the disbandment, they rejected the composition of the regional task team, which they said was part of a “conspiracy aimed at colluding against the current leadership”.

The branches also demanded that the PEC review its decision to force ANC leaders charged with crimes to stand down from public office and declared their “unwavering support to the chair and mayor Zandile Gumede until proven guilty by a court of law”.

They questioned the appointment of Mluleki Ndobe, the former Harry Gwala district mayor, to the task team on the grounds that he had been arrested for the murder of Umzimkhulu councillor Sindiso Magaqa. Charges were provisionally withdrawn against Ndobe and Umzimkhulu municipal manager Zweliphansi Skhosana.

The branches refused to accept the report tabled at the meeting and decided to “escalate” the matter back to the PEC and to the office of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, claiming that the decision was part of a campaign to purge leaders who had backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s unsuccessful bid for the party presidency in December 2017.

“There are political elements to these allegations [against Gumede], which are believed to be aimed at removing certain leaders from the ANC picture,” the briefing note said. “Given the rampant factionalism in the ANC, which has filtered down to the province and the region, it’s no surprise that many pro-[Dlamini-Zuma] comrades are in the firing line.”

The Hawks this week confirmed that they are investigating claims that Gumede and ANC deputy regional secretary and eThekwini speaker Mondli Mthembu may have violated their bail conditions by chairing council meetings after being released from custody.

On Tuesday, Ntuli announced the decision, taken at the PEC lekgotla over the weekend, that Gumede and Mthembu take 30 days leave, while the party considers what action to take against them.

The two were arrested along with contractor Craig Ponnan shortly after the May 8 elections, in connection with an illegal R208-million waste-removal tender, which has been investigated by the Hawks clean governance team probing corruption in the city.
They are out on R50 000 bail.

Gumede on Sunday said she would take leave but would not resign as mayor.

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