The legal opinion warning the ANC against forcing members accused of corruption to step aside has vindicated the supporters of KwaZulu-Natal MPL and graft-accused, Zandile Gumede, who have challenged her removal as MPL.
Gumede, who is currently sitting at home following the ANC provincial leadership’s decision to suspend her from her MPL position, is currently facing criminal charges in connection with her role in the eThekwini Municipality’s multimillion rand solid waste tender during her tenure as mayor.
The provincial ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) which has been calling for Gumede’s reinstatement said the decision to remove her from the provincial legislature had everything to do with the fact that she is a woman.
“As the ANCWL in KwaZulu-Natal we are of the firm view that she wouldn’t have been removed had she been a man.
“From the onset we warned that the removal of people on the basis that they were facing criminal charges was open to abuse.
“The rule is only being used to deal with certain individuals,” said ANCWL provincial secretary, Nonhlanhla Gabela.
Despite the fact that ANC provincial deputy chair Mike Mabuyakhulu, who like Gumede is also facing criminal charges, had been allowed to keep his position, the former eThekwini mayor has yet to go back to the provincial legislature. “The only reason he is being allowed to continue in his position is that he is a man,” Gabela said.
In August the ANC National Executive Committee resolved that party members facing criminal charges should step aside from both their ANC and government positions.
However, former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters, including ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, had been arguing that the directive flew against the Constitution as it violated the “innocent until found guilty” principle.
Following intense pressure from the Zuma supporters, the ANC national leadership have since obtained advice from lawyers, who warned the party’s top brass that it would be illegal to force members who were yet to be convicted to vacate their positions.
The legal advice would now be debated by the NEC during a meeting scheduled to be held over the weekend.
While the ANC in KZN conceded that uncertainty around the legality of the directive that members facing criminal charges should step aside had resulted in Mabuyakhulu being allowed to keep his top position, it dismissed the provincial ANCWL claims that Gumede was being unfairly treated.
“Comrade Mabuyakhulu’s case had been to the integrity commission and his reinstatement was as a result of the commission’s recommendation.
“On the other hand comrade Zandile’s case is still before the commission,” ANC provincial spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said.
It would be a setback for President Cyril Ramaphosa and his supporters within the ANC should the NEC endorse the legal opinion, given that it was Ramaphosa who had been pushing for those members facing criminal charges to step aside.