eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and council speaker Mondli Mthembu allegedly interfered with a Hawks investigation into the unlawful awarding of contracts in their city.
That is why they had to be arrested, to force them to stop interfering with city officials who could be potential witnesses against them.
This revelation was made by prosecutor Ashika Lucken and reiterated by Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi.
“Witnesses were intimidated and there were also threats. That’s why we had to effect arrests,” said Mulaudzi, who added that city officials were reluctant to give evidence, allegedly on the instruction of the mayor and the speaker.
Gumede has now been warned, by the court as per her bail conditions, to stay away from the city’s supply chain management officials, as well as others in the city’s human resources department, and its legal and finance offices.
The drastic bail conditions, which severely limits her power, were placed on her by the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday morning when Gumede, Mthembu, and businessman Craig Ponnen appeared in court facing a slew of corruption-related charges.
Gumede and her co-accused were not asked to plead to the charges and were released on R50 000 bail.
Gumede was also ordered to hand over her passport, told not to apply for a new one, and now has to notify the police when she leaves KwaZulu-Natal and when she changes her residential address.
The mayor joins 15 other co-accused who are accused of corruption originating from the alleged unlawful awarding of tenders without following proper procurement processes.
The charge sheet states that Gumede and Mthembu allegedly turned the screws on their officials to break the law.
“The accused in their capacity as the mayor of eThekwini Municipality and councillor at the municipality did unlawfully and/or wilfully, [and] deliberately influence or attempted to influence the accounting officer, the chief financial officer, senior managers, or any other official of the municipality to contravene a provision of this act or to refrain from complying with the requirements of the municipal finance management act,” the charge sheet states.
Gumede and Mthembu are also alleged to have influenced “officials from the Cleansing and Solid Waste (CSW) unit and Supply Chain Management (SCM), which resulted in an engagement in an unlawful procurement process for refuse collection, street cleaning and illegal dumping for various townships within the jurisdiction of the eThekwini municipality.”
Lucken told the court that Gumede, with the assistance of one of the accused, awarded contracts to four service providers without going to tender after allowing the previous contracts to expire to create grounds for emergency procurement.
And when that happened, a line item was allegedly created without a limit, so the service providers were able to allegedly swindle the municipality out of more than R136 million.
“Companies were imposed to be subcontracted on the appointed service providers,” said Lucken, adding that at least R136 million was claimed from the city within six months.
According to the prosecution, the appointed service providers who are also among the accused in this case, were not on municipality’s database, did not have trucks or the capacity to do the work, had no office and no waste removal certificates either.
Gumede and her co-accused will reappear in court on August 8 to join the other accused who were arrested earlier this year in the dock.