Supporters of corruption-accused former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede gathered outside the Durban high court on Monday in anticipation of the ANC heavyweight’s appearance together with her 21 co-accused.
Branches from the party’s eThekwini region — one of the largest in the country — that are loyal to Gumede, have come out in a show of strength behind the former mayor, whose trial on corruption charges stems from a R320-million solid-waste tender.
Gumede, who was recalled as mayor and ANC eThekwini chairperson after she was arrested in 2019, is charged with 21 others over the allegedly corrupt tender.
Gumede’s co-accused in the case include city manager Sipho Nzuza and a group of sitting ANC councillors, contractors and officials from the Durban Solid Waste, the city’s waste-disposal division.
The group allegedly manipulated tender processes around the solid-waste contract between 2017 and 2019, using the appointment of community-based contractors to subcontract waste removal to defraud the city by paying for work that was not done.
Gumede is alleged to have received kickbacks and other benefits amounting to more than R8-million from contractors involved in the scheme, which saw a R45-million contract being inflated to just more than R320-million over an 18-month period.
The court proceedings are expected to consist of a pre-trial hearing, at which a final date for the trial of the 22 is expected to be set.
By 8am on Monday several hundred of Gumede’s supporters had arrived to show support for her and other ANC councillors, including chief whip Mondli Mthembu and councillors Zoe Shabalala, Mthokozisi Nojiyeza, Bheko Phewa and Sduduzo Khuzwayo.
They had set up a stage from which Gumede was expected to address them after the hearing, which was also expected to be attended by members of the ANC national executive committee (NEC). Gumede and her co-accused are all members of the ANCs radical economic transformation (RET) faction and claim that she is being targeted as part of a campaign against the grouping.
They have also begun nominating Gumede as their choice for chairperson of the ANC region, despite her being charged and stepping aside from her duties as an ANC MPL in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, in line with the party’s step-aside resolution.
ANC councillor Ntando Khuzwayo, who acts as spokesperson for the branches, said they hoped that there would not be any further delays in the matter.
Khuzwayo said they would continue to nominate Gumede as chairperson at the regional conference — to be held at the end of June — to “unite the people of eThekwini”.
Khuzwayo said they planned to keep the size of the crowd outside court within the 500 limit for public gatherings set by the government in terms of the level two Covid-19 regulations.