Supporters of embattled Durban Mayor Zandile Gumede are preparing to go to the high court to force the ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial leadership to reinstate her and the eThekwini Regional Executive Committee (REC).
The branches backing Gumede — which have staged several protests against the ANC’s decision to force her to take a leave of absence over her arrest on corruption charges — want the Regional Task Team appointed by the province to be scrapped.
Their move comes as the ANC’s Provincial Working Committee (PWC) wraps up its assessments of eThekwini, Msunduzi and other dysfunctional ANC-run municipalities in the province. The findings will be presented to the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) when it meets in the first week of August.
Sources in the ANC leadership have indicated that Gumede will be removed from office and either asked to stay at home until the end of her trial — which resumes on August 8 — or moved to the provincial legislature to appease her supporters.
It is not clear whether the ANC will appoint her deputy, Fawzia Peer, who is acting as mayor, to replace her or move someone in from the legislature instead.
Mzomuhle Dube, one of the leaders of the branches backing Gumede, said on Wednesday that they were planning to go to court by the end of the week. “As things stand, there is no constitutional process of the ANC taking place regarding the mayor and the Regional Task Team. We will start pursuing this matter on a technical level. We now have to approach the courts.”
Dube said they would challenge both the dissolution of the REC and the decision to force Gumede to take leave.
He said the Regional Task Team was unwieldy in size and had been appointed by the PEC in an irregular fashion, leaving the branches no choice but to take the legal route to challenge its appointment. “We have tried to be reasonable, but as nothing has been tabled in terms of a change of circumstances, we are definitely taking the matter forward.”
Dube said they would not be able to wait for a final PEC decision on Gumede’s fate before going to court as preparations for the regional conference — one of three to be held in KwaZulu-Natal — were going ahead.
At the same time, the process of holding branch general meetings, which had been extended until August 31 because of delays, was lagging behind because of conflict over the Regional Task Team, which was operating with an open-ended mandate, rather than focusing on the task of organising conference.
Dube said: “The process is being delayed by the fact that the Regional Task Team, which was imposed when the province took the decision to dissolve the region, cannot function. They are feeling the wrath of the branches, and are being chased away.”
While the municipality has secured an interdict blocking the branches from protesting outside City Hall, in the wake of violent clashes last week, Dube said they would challenge the order when it returned to the Durban high court, on August 1.
“We were meant to protest again on Thursday, but the Metro police refused us the right to go ahead, citing the court order. The order does not specify names, so we will contest the issuing of the order when the matter returns to court,” Dube said.
Dube said they were also preparing to “accompany” the mayor when she appeared in the Durban Commercial Crime Court along with her co-accused in the case.
Gumede was arrested along with ANC deputy regional secretary Mondli Mthembu and waste removal contractor Craig Ponnan in May, weeks after a number of contractors and city officials were picked up over the allegedly fraudulent R208-million refusal removal tender.
She was released on bail of R50 000 under strict bail conditions which prevent her and Mthembu from interfering with city housing, solid waste and other staff.
Dube said they still hoped to meet with ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, who met with the Regional Task Team in Durban on Monday, to outline their concerns. “We are sure that we will be able to present our concerns to the secretary general when he resumes his consultations in the province. Thus far his engagement was restricted to the provincial leadership and the regions.”
Attempts to secure comment from ANC provincial spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu were unsuccessful at the time of writing.
However, she said in a television interview that the ANC team assessing Gumede’s case and the situation in municipalities would finalise its report at the PEC meeting next month.
The intervention in Msunduzi, where administrator Sbu Sithole has been appointed to try and turn the failing municipality around, also appears to be facing serious internal opposition from within the ranks of the ANC.
On Monday a closed-door council meeting at which he was presenting his confidential turn-around plan for the city had to be abandoned after a stun grenade was thrown into the corridor next to the meeting room.
Sithole declined to comment and referred Mail & Guardian to the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka for comment. He did not comment by the time of publication.