Durban - Service delivery and infrastructure maintenance and upgrades had fallen apart in the eThekwini region, while self-interest and political interference had crippled the municipal leadership and execution of municipal services.
This was according to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and various ratepayers’ associations on Wednesday, following the appearance in court, and the release on R50000 bail each, of eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and Mondli Mthembu, the city’s human settlements and infrastructure development chairperson, on charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering, among others.
The charges relate to a R208 million tender within the Durban solid waste department that saw the arrest of two City senior managers and seven service providers earlier this month.
Outa called on Gumede to step down as mayor.
“The leadership of the City should be above reproach. While a person is innocent until proved guilty, it is still deeply concerning that the City’s first citizen has been accused of being involved in such acts of criminality,” said Tim Tyrrell, Outa’s provincial manager.
He said Outa KZN’s main focus had been the eThekwini and Msunduzi municipalities, due to “strong indicators of maladministration, irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditures, as well as service delivery deficiencies”.
He said the organisation was apolitical, and that it presented its standpoint without fear or favour.
Tyrrell said they believed there were serious management and operational deficiencies in eThekwini municipal structures, but not that the City was on the verge of collapse.
“We are, however, very concerned that undue and excessive self-interest and political interference are crippling City leadership and the satisfactory execution of municipal services,” he said.
Employees in municipal units were “ecstatic” about Gumede’s arrest.
The employees, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said Gumede was a “bully” and was “poison” to the smooth running of the City’s affairs, and that she was brazen about it.
“She interfered in everything that had the potential to be tendered for, and she is arrogant and intimidating,” said one employee.
Durban ratepayers' associations and councillors felt that residents had been left to suffer while City officials were embroiled in corrupt activities. Bluff Ratepayers' Association chairman Ivor Aylward said: “It’s absolute chaos. There is no law in place. By-laws are not protecting the one who wants to be within the law.”
Avoca and Sea Cow Lake councillor Ashok Maharajh said his ward had several service delivery issues, including malfunctioning street lights, water leaks, uncut verges and sewage spills.
“Basic service delivery is just not coming. There is something seriously wrong with the municipality,” Maharajh said.
Gumede and Mthembu could not be reached for comment.
eThekwini municipality said it would abide by the legal principle of innocent until proved otherwise.
In a statement, the City assured residents that the matter would have no impact on service delivery to communities.