The ANC KwaZulu-Natal leadership has axed Durban mayor Zandile Gumede along with its entire executive committee and that of Pietermaritzburg.
The governing party finally moved against Gumede — who it placed on special leave at the end of May after she was arrested over an illegal R208 million refuse removal tender — at meeting of its provincial executive committee (PEC) on Monday.
Gumede and other EXCO members from the two cities, both of which are in dire financial and administrative straits, were called to the ANC provincial office in Durban on Tuesday morning and informed of their redeployment. They will not, however, be fired at this stage as councillors and the ANC is likely to keep them on board as ordinary councillors to avoid a backlash from their supporters.
The ANC will name their replacements, and those for other councillors and mayors who moved to the national and provincial parliaments, within seven days.
ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli told a media briefing in Durban on Tuesday that Gumede had been removed along with the two EXCOs as a result of the ANC’s assessment of performance of its municipal deployees.
Ntuli said that while Gumede had been placed on leave over the corruption charges, for which she will appear in court again in January next year, this was not the reason for her redeployment.
Ntuli said that the ANC had been forced to intervene in the two municipalities because of failure to utilise budgets; the collapse of their billing systems; failures in financial management and a “sustained pattern of wrong decisions.”
Both had abused Section 32 and Section 36 emergency powers in a way that was neither lawful nor consistent with Treasury regulations and had failed to act against those found to be in violation of municipal finance regulations.
“We are convinced that the absence of change of leadership is some municipalities is certainly a prescription for instability and, if remains unattended, will tarnish the confidence and image of the ANC,” Ntuli said.
Ntuli refused to speculate on who would replace the axed councillors, saying there were no preferred candidates at this stage and that the provincial working committee (PWC) and the top five officials would decide on who they were.
He said the approach of basing the redeployments on “scientific” analysis of the poor performance of the municipalities had “depersonalised” the Gumede matter and had disproved claims that she and her supporters were being purged for opposing the sitting PEC.
Despite earlier threats of a protest march by Gumede’s supporters — which had prompted the SAPS to deploy a large contingent at the ANC provincial head office and City Hall —there was no immediate backlash from her supporters.
Mzomuhle Dube, an eThekwini ANC region branch leader involved in the campaign to support Gumede, said they would await a briefing from the PEC before deciding whether or not to go to court.
Dube said the ANC had systematically collapsed the leadership of the two cities and the ANC regions in them to undermine their authority.