Embattled eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede wants to return from her prolonged special leave and on Thursday won a court application to amend her bail conditions, which could allow for her return.
Gumede made an application to the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes court to change the “wording” of one of her bail conditions, which stated she was not allowed to communicate with employees of various units in the municipality.
She faces charges of corruption, racketeering and money laundering and using her political might to strong-arm awarding of contracts for a Durban Solid Waste tender where four companies made about R130 million. She handed herself over to police in May, and has been on special leave ever since.
Gumede is accused with 15 others. They are all out on R50 000 bail.
The court heard on Thursday that there may yet be more arrests in the matter, and that the Hawks will need about four more months to complete investigations.
Gumede was supported by hundreds of people — including some from the ANC’s youth league and women’s league — who waited outside court during her appearance. There was a heavy police presence in and outside court, and only 10 members of the media were allowed inside. Reporters were banned from recording of any kind, and cell phones had to be switched off.
Gumede’s advocate, Jimmy Howse, said there was no need for Gumede to be on special leave, since her returning to work will not interfere with investigations or bail conditions. “[Gumede’s] concern is that there is a perception that it is necessary for [her] to be on special leave for the purposes of the criminal case. We want to spell it out clearly: this is a misconception,” he said.
State prosecutor Ashika Lucken told Howse that the decision to place Gumede was her employer’s decision, and that such decisions fell out of the ambit of the court.
“The City manager [Sipho Nzuza] liaises with the mayor and the other units,” Lucken added. “The investigating officer informed me that that is the process.”
Magistrate Dawn Soomaroo granted the amendment to the bail conditions, which now stipulates Gumede is not allowed to communicate with employees of those units, unless it falls within her mayoral duties as outlined in the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Gumede also has to consider Section 118 of that Act, which deals with interference, when carrying out her duties.
Howse later raised grievances that Gumede had about her criminal charge, describing them as “meaningless” and “unsupported by evidence”. He said her role in the entire matter is only briefly touched upon in the state’s affidavit in opposition of bail.
Soomaroo questioned Howse’s submissions, saying that there were several other accused in this matter and the “court must ensure justice is done fairly … and that no double standards apply”.
The accused in the matter are: Robert Abbu, eThekwini’s deputy head of strategic and new development; Sandile Ngcobo, the chairperson of the City’s tender Bid Adjudication Committee; Bongani Dlomo; Khobuso Dlomo; Prabagaran Pariah; Zithulele Mkhize; Mzwandile Dludla; Sithamone Ponnan; Hlenga Sibisi; Craig Ponnan; Mondli Mthembu, an eThekwini councillor; and Gumede.
Four companies — Uzuzinekele Trading 31 cc, Omphile Thabang Projects, Ilanga La Mahlase Projects Pty Ltd and El Shaddai Holdings Groups cc, are also accused in the matter.
The case was adjourned to January next year.