The swearing in of new Durban mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has been postponed indefinitely after the incumbent, Zandile Gumede, withdrew her resignation as mayor.
While the governing party on Tuesday denied any knowledge of Gumede reversing her decision to stand down as mayor, three impeccable sources in the city said she had done so during the course of the day.
The move by Gumede — who was suspended as mayor after being arrested on corruption charges in May but was told to resign over poor performance — has thrown the ANC’s plan to manage her removal into disarray.
“She has withdrawn her resignation,” an ANC councillor in the eThekwini metro, who cannot be named because they are not mandated to speak to the media. “This is something.”
“She has also complained to Luthuli House about being told to resign by SMS message and about the way in which the province has handled the whole thing,” the councillor said.
A second council source said Gumede had written to City Manager Sipho Nzuza on Tuesday informing him that she had rescinded her decision to step down.
“She has submitted the letter today. She has met with her legal team and this was done on their advice. This has been handled in a very clumsy fashion. She has legal issues facing her and can’t allow herself to be associated with any clumsy decisions,” the source said.
ANC spokesperson Ricardo Mthembu said that the party was “not aware” of a change of decision by Gumede.
“We are not aware. The only letter we have is the letter of resignation. That is what we are working with,” Mthembu said.
Gumede and the other ANC deployees to the eThekwini and Msunduzi councils were told to resign last week by the provincial party leadership on the basis of poor performance.
She had earlier been placed on suspension after being released on bail of R50 000 over a R208-million municipal waste management tender. No work was done by the contractors who were awarded the tender, allegedly after it was manipulated by Gumede and supply chain management officials.
On Tuesday morning, eThekwini announced that the full council meeting set for Thursday to swear in Kaunda, deputy Belinda Scott and speaker Weziwe Thusi had been postponed indefinitely but gave no reasons.
Mthembu said the council meeting had been postponed until next week to allow for the new executive committee members to be registered with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). The ANC had also needed time to convince one of its eThekwini councillors to resign as the party had to appoint three new councillors but only had two vacant council seats.
Mthembu was unwilling to speculate as to what action the party would take regarding Gumede’s reversal.
“We can’t comment on something we haven’t seen,” Mthembu said.
Mzomuhle Dube, a spokesperson for branches supporting Gumede, said they had “heard” she had reversed her decision but had not seen a letter.
“If she has, she would be within her rights. The PEC [provincial executive committee] has handled this matter very badly from the beginning. You cannot tell a leader to resign via SMS,” he said.
The city said in a statement on Tuesday night that the council meeting had been postponed as “there were not enough agenda items to convene the council meeting.”
“This is as a result of the postponement of the executive committee meeting on August 20 after opposition parties left the meeting,” the statement reads.
It is not clear at this stage what action the ANC will take over Gumede’s about-turn and whether the withdrawal of her resignation was line with council rules.
A source close to Gumede said that she had tendered her resignation to the city manager rather than to the speaker, which allowed her to withdraw it.
Gumede is understood to have approached Luthuli House to challenge her recall before deciding to withdraw her resignation letter.
On Monday, the ANC provincial leadership will meet with the ANC top six to discuss Gumede’s recall.
“uMama has appealed her recall, hence is withdrawing her resignation letter awaiting the outcome of the meeting on Monday,” a member of the ANC PEC said. “She approached Luthuli and the SG [secretary general] has issued the invitation to the provincial officials for Monday.”