The downfall of Zandile Gumede

2019-06-23 07:48
eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede (Gallo Images)

eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede (Gallo Images)

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It has been a difficult 2019 for embattled eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede, and her troubles seem to be here to stay.

Not only did she lose the top citizen spot for one of the ANC's biggest metros - after she was put on 30-days "special leave"-  but she seems set for a protracted court battle as her corruption case progresses.

How did the embattled Gumede arrive here?

Simply put, her downfall is of her own making, with poor service delivery and arrogant leadership the order of the day since she took office in 2016.

Surrounding herself with poor national leadership such as Bathabile Dlamini and Jacob Zuma, one can see how Gumede's downfall was imminent.

She has consistently closed ranks at the municipality and maintained a dictator-like hold on nearly every department.

While her stranglehold on the administration of Durban was widely rumoured, Hawks investigating officer Lieutenant Colonel Ngoako Mphaki brought solid allegations to the Commercial Crimes Court, where Gumede appeared for her alleged interference in the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) unit, amounting to over R200m.

Mphaki said he had obtained evidence indicating that Gumede used her political status to influence the appointment of senior personnel in eThekwini responsible for supply-chain management, and legal and human resources.

He said Gumede would give instructions to the Bid Specification Committee (BSC), Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC) and the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC). This despite the fact that mayors are not allowed to be involved in tender specification processes.

"The SCM committees remain dysfunctional, as they continue to be directed by Mayor Gumede and Councillor Mthembu in their operational functions," he was quoted as saying in court documents.

Moerane Commission

Gumede's poor leadership was highly evident in the year-long sitting of the Moerane Commission on political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.

Despite the dire need for leaders to engage the commission to curb a disturbing number of political assassinations (well over 100 since 2011), Gumede never sent an eThekwini Metro delegation to testify.

This despite the Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi often featuring as a hub for hitmen and violence in the city.

She had also consistently ignored the Public Protector's office, which released a report in June 2017 that called for intervention to hold several organs of state to account for their roles in the plight of Glebelands residents.

eThekwini was meant to implement its part of the plan within the 30 days of the release of the report. This never happened.

When the big guns, in the form of Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga, descended on eThekwini for answers about Glebelands on March 14, Gumede offered an apology and promised action going forward.

At meeting, she said: "I am taking full responsibility for these grave administrative errors. I am making a firm commitment [that] this will never happen again. From now on, we will communicate whatever we do on the ground."

Her words were empty.

Our mayor the no show

Malunga gave her 30 days to begin working on remedial action at Glebelands but, a month later, she was a no-show when the deputy public protector returned to ascertain progress.

Instead, her paltry excuse was that safety was a concern. This even though the entire delegation, including the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), continued the inspection.

What they discovered explained why she did not attend the vital meeting. The work the municipality was meant to complete was yet to be done. Sanitation was deplorable, refuse had stacked up, and there was almost no maintenance.

SAHRC advocate Mahomed Ameermia described the hostel as one of the worst he had ever seen: "People here are living in subhuman conditions and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency."

Speaking about Gumede and the impact of her absenteeism, Malunga said: "We have walked through here today with no incidents. We have had police with us this entire time. Where is the threat?"

He added: "The municipality has a lot to do to redeem its own image. It is completely unacceptable. They don't take the people who elected them seriously."

Defiance and marches

Since the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal put her on 30 days of special leave, Gumede has, from a distance, attempted to assert herself. In yet another show of her glaring arrogance and the depth of her fearmongering, she used municipal buses to transport hundreds to march on her party's head office in the Durban CBD.

A throng of spokespersons at the municipality are yet to answer News24's simple question: Why were municipal buses used to transport Gumede supporters?

During her first appearance in the Commercial Crimes Court, a group of her supporters blocked media from taking her picture. This as police watched on, blaming media for the ruckus.

The eThekwini Metro can expect Gumede and her cronies to put up quite a fight before they are fully rid of her autocratic rule. It will also take a great deal of will and work from Premier Sihle Zikalala's new provincial leadership to curb the rot that has set in.

If the people are to be put first, it seems that a national intervention from Ramaphosa is also vital in removing these tired old leaders.

Ultimately, the impact of Gumede will be felt for years to come, with the average Durban ratepayer paying the price for her enrichment.

Read more on:    zandile gumede  |  ethekwini municipality  |  durban
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