The R208-million corruption case against Durban mayor Zandile Gumede and several other accused has been postponed until early next year.
Gumede, deputy speaker Mondli Mthembu, city supply-chain head Sandile Ngcobo, four waste disposal contractors and a number of other city officials all had their bail extended and will appear in court again on January 15 2020.
The postponement was granted to allow the prosecution the four months it had requested complete the investigation into Gumede and her co-accused, who were arrested in May by the Hawks clean audit team.
Gumede and Mthembu were picked up after the initial wave of arrests, which came after the city’s integrity and investigations unit flagged the tender in an internal report.
The accused face a raft of charges — including corruption, money laundering and racketeering — over the inflation of the tender from R25-million to R208-million for work that was never done. They allegedly split the tender between four companies which did not have any waste removal experience or infrastructure by manipulating the award process.
Thus far, 10 people have been arrested, including contractor Hlenga Sibisi, whose company was allegedly used to channel illegal payments to the other participants in the scheme, while another arrest for money laundering is imminent.
A large crowd of Gumede’s supporters had gathered overnight for her appearance at the Durban magistrates court, where the case was moved to after her initial appearance in the city’s commercial crimes court.
Magistrate Dawn Soomaroo relaxed Gumede’s bail conditions — which had prevented her from speaking to any city staff except city manager Sipho Nzuza — to allow her to communicate with the city’s chief financial officer and other managers. Gumede’s counsel, Jimmy Howse, had made an application for them to be slackened on the grounds that they had hampered her ability to do her job.
Gumede was placed on leave by the ANC provincial leadership after her arrest and a final decision from the party on whether or not to remove her from office is expected at a meeting of the provincial executive committee (PEC) this weekend.
A decision on her fate was deferred from last weekend’s PEC meeting.
Gumede’s supporters have threatened to go to the high court to force the party to reinstate her should a decision to fire her be taken at the weekend.