Gumede is ‘much baffled’ because, she says, she was the one who had been leading the fight against corruption and maladministration
Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, who is facing criminal charges, believes she is being targeted for criminal prosecution and political persecution because she is a woman leader.
Gumede was arrested in May and is facing fraud, corruption and money-laundering charges relating to a R208 million Durban Solid Waste tender.
Municipality officials and businesspeople have also been charged.
Last week the Hawks and the Asset Forfeiture Unit started attaching the assets of Gumede and her co-accused.
She appeared in court on Friday on charges of contravening her bail conditions.
Her lawyer claimed responsibility for not informing the court that she had left her rented house in Umhlanga and moved back to her Inanda township home.
She is out on R50 000 bail and is due back in court in January.
When she was axed as mayor in the wake of her arrest, the ANC’s provincial executive committee cited “continuous and sustained decline of the quality of service delivery” in eThekwini as the reason.
The charges she is facing did not factor into the ANC’s explanation about her axing.
The ANC regional executive committee she led was also disbanded.
Gumede told City Press in an interview that she was “much baffled because everyone knows my stance [on corruption]”.
It was in fact herself, she said, who had been leading the fight against corruption and maladministration in the metro.
She said she was “on record” as having questioned several issues that had stalled at the municipality, such as the revenue management system that ostensibly contributed to her firing.
“But because I was complaining about that, I was [made an outcast]. I am on record talking about the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) tender [for which she was charged]; I said I need the report on the DSW tender and asked why the CFO [chief financial officer Krish Kumar] kept on saying people weren’t doing their work and why the city manager [Sipho Nzuza] was not ensuring supervision,” she said.
Gumede said she was “on record” asking who had employed Umkhonto weSizwe military veterans without following the “proper channels”.
The employment of 80 military veterans and their subsequent irregular pay hike angered regular workers and resulted in a violent strike that shut down the city centre for days.
“Because I asked these things, as a woman leader, I was cut down,” said Gumede.
“This thing is about women leaders, as women we don’t stand up and be strong ... women leaders in society, if we are not joining hands ...”
One of Gumede’s ardent supporters and spokesperson for her camp, Mzo Dube, said the arrest, raids and Friday’s court appearance were all part of “a ploy to keep mama [Gumede] away from contesting the eThekwini conference”.
“This is unwarranted and it’s unfortunate, having to attend court for her bail conditions. It was not necessary; there was absolutely no need for it. It was just to demonstrate power ...” said Dube.
The conference is due to take place in December but might be postponed because of serious glitches with the party’s new digital membership system.
Gumede has insisted that she will stand despite her ongoing trial and it seems her appearance at the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Friday played into the hands of her supporters’ conspiracy theories.
Last week her backers accused the state of waging a “ruthless” pursuit of an “innocent and principled” woman.
In the interview Gumede said she was “just complying” with the authorities to “clear my name”.
She said she would not being swayed from standing for the chairperson position.
“I am still confused as to why they are doing this to me. I enjoy support for coming back as chairperson of the region, no one can deny that, because the branches are saying so.
“But I don’t want to comment on that because it’s a political issue and I don’t want to cloud the government and political issues,” she said.
Forty-four respondents were targeted in the search and seizure operation – the accused, their family members, companies and trusts.
The seizure list includes 19 properties, some of them luxury homes and company offices, 26 high-end vehicles, including a Lamborghini Huracan Spyder 610-4, 47 more vehicles comprising work bakkies, trailers, construction vehicles and smaller cars, three taxis, 31 bank accounts, 28 share stakes in companies or trusts, two bail receipts and one caravan.
Contrary to social media reports, sports vehicles were not found at or seized from Gumede’s family home in Inanda.
According to the seizure list, which City Press has seen, Gumede’s erf in Phoenix was attached, as was a Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota Hilux and her 33.3% membership in MMZ Media Distributors and Supplies.
I want specifics
Gumede claimed that in all the time since her arrest “no charges” had been given to her.
A charge sheet has, in fact, been filed with the commercial crimes court and was available at Gumede’s first appearance, which City Press told her. The charges have been extensively reported in the media.
But she said she wanted “specifics”.
“It’s just written fraud, corruption and money laundering,” said Gumede.
“I need all the details to be given; they said in court they are still investigating, they are not saying I have done it.
“It is my right to know exactly [what I am being charged with], you cannot generalise, it must be on record,” she said.
Gumede had expected to be given a copy of the details of the charges, she said, so that she could “prepare”.
“They need to investigate first and finish up their investigation, then they can convict,” she said. It also made no sense that her belongings were attached while she didn’t know the specifics of the charges, she said.
“I am patiently waiting for the law to tell me what I have done wrong.”
Gumede would not be drawn on whether she would appeal the confiscation of her assets. “I am complying for now.”
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, the Hawks’ spokesperson, told City Press it was not the first time they had been accused of political interference in a high-profile case, as Gumede’s supporters have alleged.
“We deal with criminal investigations, not politics. Politicians must go and deal with politics. Leave us to do our work. Conspiracy theories won’t work.”
ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said via SMS: “I doubt there is much to be said by the ANC on the developments.”
Gumede said it was not the ANC, but individuals, who had let her down.
“The ANC is not a human being, I still have confidence in the ANC, it’s here to stay, individuals come and go.”
KwaZulu-Natal-based political analyst Xolani Dube (not related to Mzo) said Gumede’s standing in the ANC needed to be interpreted through the governing party’s “distorted” reasoning.
Dube said that if the ANC based its logic on moral and ethical leadership, Gumede would “absolutely not” be allowed to stand for chairperson of the eThekwini region.
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