As eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and her co-accused left the regional commercial crimes court in Durban on Tuesday morning, a group of supporters created a human shield of sorts as journalists and photographers tried to capture the moment.
The moment had been a long time coming for the embattled mayor and senior municipal councillor Mondli Mthembu, who handed themselves over to the Hawks on Tuesday morning. The pair were granted bail of R50 000 each.
Gumede and Mthembu are facing charges of money laundering, corruption and racketeering.
After months of investigations, a senior law enforcement official told City Press on Monday evening: “It is finally happening. I am told that they are bringing a big team of heavy-hitting lawyers. It had all been planned to happen quietly without the knowledge of the media.”
The case against Gumede and her co-accused is set to be one of the country’s most high-profile cases, with a task team being set up specifically to interrogate the claims of corruption which has swept through the municipality over the past few years. Among the litany of charges against her, Gumede has also been accused of using her political influence over the awarding of tenders.
Deal or no deal for ANC
Speaking to the media outside court after Gumede was granted bail, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi denied that a deal was struck between Gumede and the Hawks to have the mayor arrested after the elections to avoid the ANC any embarrassment.
“I don’t know where [this] deal is coming from. I think it’s neither here nor there. We deal with investigations and what’s critical as well is that we need to make sure that the prosecutors that were working on it, we arm them with information.”
The ANC in the eThekwini region affirmed their faith in the justice system and that they “subscribe to the principle of innocence until proven otherwise”.
“We are a strong believer in the rule of law and the principles of natural justice. However, we know that the court of public opinion doesn’t subscribe to these principles. We therefore urge everyone to respect the court as the only competent body to pronounce on its outcomes,” the ANC said.
A forensic investigation was launched by the Hawks in May last year, into the awarding of a contract to hire and clean chemical toilets by Gumede.
A forensic report, compiled by Integrity Forensic Solutions, found that Gumede, Mthembu and other officials had been involved in a R25 million tender scam.
They are expected to appear in court on August again.
In setting out the bail conditions, Magistrate Dawn Somaroo told the accused: “These conditions are strict and any hint of these conditions directly or indirectly violated, you will be brought back to court.”
Some of the bail conditions set were:
- communicate with any officials directly or indirectly linked to the audit trail at Durban Solid Waste,
- communicate with all supply chain management, legal and financial employees in the metro,
- communicate with operations staff of the eThekwini metro administration,
- access any documents related to the investigation,
- leave South Africa, or KZN without police notice. She also has to hand over her passports to police and is not allowed to apply for new travel documents.
- change her residential address.
Somaroo said that if the pair had been found to have violated their bail it “will be revoked and you will be in custody for the remainder of the matter.” - Additional reporting News24