Durban’s new mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, will be sworn in at a full council meeting on Thursday after incumbent Zandile Gumede, who was redeployed by the ANC along with her fellow executive committee members, finally resigned on Monday afternoon.
Gumede’s resignation and that of other ANC councillors deployed as executive committee (EXCO) members in the eThekwini Metro and Msunduzi local municipality, will hopefully end months of turmoil within the ANC which has resulted in the collapse of the two councils in the two cities.
The councillors were recalled by the governing party last week in a bid to halt the decline of KwaZulu-Natal’s capital and economic powerhouse, both of which the ANC risks losing in the 2021 local government elections. The party fared badly in both municipalities in the May 8 general elections and its leadership is concerned that further financial and political turmoil may cost it both cities.
While Gumede had initially been suspended over her arrest in May on corruption charges stemming from a dodgy R208-million refuse removal tender, the party removed her along with the rest of EXCO over poor performance. The move was understood to be aimed at demobilising her supporters, who claimed she was being nailed for opposing the sitting provincial executive committee (PEC) last June.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Ricardo Mthembu confirmed on Tuesday that all the resignations from the two sets of EXCO members – including Gumede — had been received.
“All of them have resigned as they were instructed. The two council meetings to swear in the new executive committees will go ahead as planned,” he said.
Mthembu said the ANC “appreciates” their cooperation in resigning.
“They have indicated that as cadres they will listen to the ANC. It is a very difficult thing to be told to resign when you feel that you are doing well. They have provided the leadership to assist the ANC, which we appreciate,” Mthembu said.
Durban deputy mayor Fawzia Peer would continue to act as mayor until Kaunda, the current transport and public safety MEC, was sworn in. Former finance MEC Belinda Scott will act as Kaunda’s deputy.
Mthembu said the ANC was formulating charges against 14 councillors from the two municipalities whom it has suspended over their role in the campaign to undermine the province’s decision to move against Gumede and to dissolve the regional executive committees (REC) of eThekwini and Moses Mabhida.
The group was allegedly the ringleaders of a series of marches and disruption of ANC meetings in both cities, including the blockade of the Durban city hall which saw violent confrontations between Gumede’s supporters and police.
“There is no indication that they will challenge the suspensions. They joined the ANC voluntarily and the declaration is very clear on what is expected from them as members. The disciplinary structures are now dealing with the matter…and are formulating the charges,” he said.
The councillors would know the exact charges against them within 30 days, Mthembu said. They would continue to occupy their council seats, but would be kept under strict supervision by the ANC to ensure that they did not stray from the party mandate.
Mthembu also confirmed that the leadership of the General Gizenga Mpanza region — which covers Mandeni and other KwaZulu-Natal north coast towns — had also been suspended over infighting and dysfunction.
“The REC of the General Gizenga region has been disbanded because of disunity and a lack of programmes. We are sending a very strong message to all structures that we are not going to tolerate structures that are not implementing ANC programmes,” he said.
A 25-member RTT headed by PEC members Peggy Nkonyeni and Bheki Sibiya would oversee the preparations by the regions branches for a regional conference, which would be held within six months.
Mthembu said preparations for regional conferences in eThekwini, Moses Mabhida, Lower South Coast and Ukahlamba were all underway.
Mzomuhle Dube, spokesperson for the branches backing Gumede, said they had decided not to challenge her redeployment in court.
Dube said that any application would have to be challenge the redeployment of the entire EXCO, some of whose members had turned on Gumede as soon as she was suspended.
‘’We have deliberated over this matter and asked ourselves difficult questions. For the purposes of progress, it is better that we let this one pass,” Dube said.
Dube said they would nominate Gumede as chairperson of eThekwini at the regional conference in October.
“We will still nominate her as chairperson. Mam’ Gumede still has a lot to offer. We are still behind her becoming chair of the region, even if she is not mayor. As chair she will still have sufficient oversight over eThekwini. Anybody can be mayor…it’s just a deployment,” Dube said.