The ANC task team that has been investigating whether embattled eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede should return to work following her suspension over a multi-million rand tender, has recommended that she should be removed from her position.
However, the ANC’s highest decision-making structure between provincial conferences — the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) — that discussed the task team’s recommendations during the structure’s two-day meeting that ended in Durban on Monday, resolved not to immediately implement the task team’s recommendation.
According to reliable sources, the ANC Provincial Working Committee (PWC) that presented its report to the PEC was of the view that keeping Gumede in her position would cause irreparable damage to the image of the ruling party.
“The PWC was of the view that efforts by the ANC to fight corruption would ring hollow should comrade Gumede be allowed to return to work.
“While the PWC acknowledged the fact that Gumede has not been found guilty by any court of law, it felt that the charges she was facing were extremely serious and that returning her to the same office where she is being accused of committing acts of corruption would send the wrong message to the public,” the source said.
Gumede, who since June has been on special leave following her arrest by members of the corruption-busting unit the Hawks, is currently out on R50 000 bail.
Gumede, who will be back in court on Thursday, has been charged with fraud and corruption in connection with the municipality’s R200 million refuse disposal tender.
According to sources within the PEC, which was widely expected to recall Gumede during Monday’s meeting, the structure resolved to refer the report recommending her axing back to the PWC to avoid creating the impression that she was being targeted.
“The report that was submitted by the PWC only focused on the Gumede matter. Some members of the PEC felt that other cases of ANC members who have been charged with crimes in the province should also be covered by the PWC’s investigation so that it does not seem like the leadership was targeting her,” another source said.
The PEC resolved to refer the report back to the PWC on the back of threats by Gumede’s supporters to take the ANC to court should the PEC endorse the recommendation that she should be axed from her mayoral position.
However, the ANC alliance partner the SA Communist Party (SACP) has threatened to organise massive protests should Gumede go back to work. “We are engaging with the ANC at the provincial level so that decisive action around this matter can be taken. This issue is paralysing the municipality. If they don’t, the SACP will mobilise the community against the mayor,” SACP eThekwini regional secretary Phumlani Mthembu said.
The SACP, Mthembu said, believed that there still remained a number of corruption cases involved Gumede that needed to be investigated.
Despite the PEC not yet having endorsed the PWC’s recommendation that Gumede be axed, the embattled mayor remains on suspension.
“Two months ago the PEC resolved that she should be put on suspension while the matter was being investigated by the PWC — that decision still stands,” the PEC member said.
Newly-appointed ANC spokesperson Ricardo Mthembu could not be reached for comment on the PEC’s decision on Gumede.
ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli is expected to brief the media in Durban today on the outcomes of the PEC’s meeting.