Axed Durban mayor and corruption-accused Zandile Gumede has been sworn in as an ANC member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature.
The shock appointment of Gumede — who was fired as eThekwini mayor by the governing party last year for poor performance shortly after she was arrested in connection with a corruption waste disposal tender valued at about R400-million — was confirmed by the ANC KwaZulu-Natal leadership on Wednesday morning.
Gumede, who was also chair of the disbanded ANC eThekwini region, replaces ANC MPL Ricardo Mthembu, who died from a Covid-19-related illness last month.
She is out on bail of R50 000 over the Durban Solid Waste tender case, over which she and a number of ANC councillors and city officials were arrested. The group allegedly conspired to award tenders to a number of service providers who had no capacity to deliver the waste-removal services, which were never carried out.
Gumede is due to appear in court again in September when her legal team is set to bring an application to strike the case off the roll because of the succession of delays in getting it to trial.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela confirmed the appointment of Gumede as an MPL.
Ntombela said the decision had been taken by the ANC deployment committee, in conjunction with Luthuli House, and was aimed at both stabilising the eThekwini municipality, where Gumede had remained as a councillor after being fired as mayor, and assisting her.
“The principle in eThekwini was to work on a process of stabilising the municipality. There has been an issue raised, correctly or wrongly, that her continuous presence in eThekwini, even as an ordinary councillor, was not assisting this. The decision was to assist her by taking her out of eThekwini to give her an opportunity to explore optimum functionality in another area,” Ntombela said.
He said the ANC had decided to deploy Gumede to the legislature despite the criminal charges against her, because she had not been convicted of any crime.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had still not started Gumede’s prosecution after more than a year, and the ANC had to allow her to continue with both her life and her party work while the legal process played itself out.
“After more than a year, the NPA is still not ready to proceed, which raises challenges for the organisation about how to deal with the matter. We are not denying that she is facing charges. We are not saying that the charges against her must be withdrawn. The charges must proceed when the NPA is ready to do so. In the meantime, she needs to continue living her life,” Ntombela said.
Democratic Alliance (DA) eThekwini leader Nicole Graham said the party was “disgusted by the ANC’s move to elect Gumede to a cushy seat in the legislature”.
“It is obvious that the former mayor is a powerful figure in the ANC who has protection in high places. Why else would she earn a promotion back to the legislature when her absolutely disgraceful behaviour is so clear for all to see?”
Gumede had not answered calls from Mail & Guardian at the time of publishing.