Inside the corruption charges against eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, councillor Mondli Mthembu

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Durban mayor Zandile Gumede. (File, Supplied)
Durban mayor Zandile Gumede. (File, Supplied)

Details of alleged interference, fraud and an intricate network of corruption linked to eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede and councillor Mondli Mthembu have been laid bare in the Durban Commercial Crime Court.

Gumede was arrested on Tuesday morning, before making her appearance in a packed court room, after she and Mthembu handed themselves over to police.

While Gumede was granted bail of R50 000, details by investigating Hawks officer Lieutenant Colonel Ngoako Mphaki implicate her and Executive Committee (exco) councillor Mthembu in a web of corruption in Durban Solid Waste (DSW).

An affidavit by Mphaki, read out by senior State prosecutor Ashika Lucken, also put eThekwini Metro Deputy Head of Strategic and New Developments Robert Abbu, at the center of the multimillion-rand scandal.

The three are accused of using political position to influence the awarding of a Durban Solid Waste (DSW) contract.

Among others, they face charges of breaching sections of the Municipal Finance Management Act, Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act, Prevention of Organised Crime Act and the Local Government Municipal Services Act.

"Gumede and Mthembu played a major role in the award of the contract to the four suppliers. Collective evidence obtained indicates that Abbu, Gumede and Mthembu and the four suppliers conspired during the period that the process related to the appointment was processed," Mphaki's affidavit read.

How did they allegedly do it?

According to Mphaki, DSW allegedly appointed service providers to collect refuse in eThekwini for three years.

The contract was expiring in or around 2016, and the Supply Chain Management (SCM) process to appoint suppliers for a new term was to commence at least a year before the expiry of the existing contract.

Abbu allegedly circumvented normal procedure by using the "Section 36 clause" – a clause that allows certain decision to be taken due to an emergency.

He restricted invitations of quotations to four suppliers including Ilanga La Mahlase Projects Pty Ltd, Omphile Thabang Projects and El Shaddai Holdings Groups CC.

Mphaki said he then divided the scope of work that was undertaken by 27 contractors and recommended it be performed by four suppliers.

"He also amended the scope of the original tender to include a line item in respect of illegal dumping, with no limit amount to what the four suppliers could claim from eThekwini. The annual budget for eThekwini illegal dumping was R5m," the affidavit said.

Mphaki said he facilitated and processed recommendations that the four suppliers be awarded the contract for refuse collection for a period of three months, at a cost of R45m, with an unlimited budget for illegal dumping.

"Illegal dumping was then used by the four suppliers to bill eThekwini with impunity, to the extent that more than R130m in six months was billed, despite having approved R5m for illegal dumping and a total budget of R45m for the entire refuse collection contract."

Corruption and intimidation

Mphaki said he obtained evidence indicating that Gumede influenced the appointment of senior personnel at the components of eThekwini responsible for SCM, legal and human resources using her political status.

He said head of the City's integrity and investigation unit (CIIU) highlighted political interference from Gumede and Mthembu on various occasions.

"This was done through [the] Municipal Accounts Committee (MPAC); the Executive Committee (Exco); as well as Auditor General SA (AG - between late March 2019 and April 2019).

"The head of CIIU refused to make evidence available by absenting himself from work to post traumatic stress, relating to constant pressure put to him during the investigation of this matter."

Mphaki also said Gumede would instruct the Bid Specification Committee (BSC), Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC) and the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) - 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."

Mthembu also summoned the four suppliers to City Hall, where he instructed them to sub-contract their illegal dumping portion of the contract to other suppliers

"This amounts to councillor Mthembu approving an award of a sub-contractor without following the SCM protocol, as well as him as a councillor descending into the SCM arena."

He added that, in April 2019, Gumede incited a march to City Hall to request the removal of the city manager on the grounds that he refused to take orders from her to make irregular payments in respect of the DSW tender.

He said there was evidence that Gumede and Mthembu orchestrated the march.

Bail was set at R50 000. The case will resume on August 8.

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