Zandile Gumede Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo, PSN, INLSA

Durban - eThekwini Municipality mayor, Zandile Gumede, has lashed out at media houses for what she deems is an attempt to impugn her reputation.

In a lengthy statement issued on Tuesday, Gumede said the articles published were in fact the “epitome of gutter journalism at its worst”.

Earlier this week, it was reported that elite investigative unit, the Hawks, had swooped on offices at the council. 

The raid was further confirmed by Hawks national spokesperson, Hangwani Mulaudzi. He said the Hawks were working with the municipality’s Integrity and Investigations Unit to probe corruption. However, there were also claims that the mayor would be arrested. 

In her statement, Zandile said the allegations were unfounded and no attempt was made to verify facts.

“I want to state it upfront that there are certain obligations that journalists and publishers have to honour as basic tenets of journalism which appear to have been overlooked when the malicious allegations were peddled in the media. It is imperative that the writer of the article make every endeavour to contact and to obtain a comment from the object of the article. To this end, neither I nor my office were contacted for a comment or our side of the story. The source of information especially if it is of a compromising or accusatory nature; ought to be verified as reliable and responsible. The sources of these allegations aimed specifically at me appear to be nameless, unauthorised individuals, allegedly in the employ of the Hawks,” she said.

Gumede dismissed the contents of the article as “nothing more than irresponsible rumour mongering camouflaged as investigative journalism.”

“This is yet another attempt by some media personnel who operate as hired guns to stoop to sensationalism to besmirch and defame me. In this regard I place on record that I reserve my right to institute action against the publication that peddled and originated these malicious and false accusations.  I wish to further highlight few pertinent facts which trump the spurious allegations and expose the nefarious intentions of the faceless sources behind the allegations,” she said.

Gumede said the alleged irregular tender(s) mentioned in the article were advertised, adjudicated and awarded long before her tenure began.

“It is surprising that an investigative journalist would not delve into the history of the tender process. This was completed long before I was appointed as a mayor. In any event there is no mention on how and by what means the process was influenced and what precisely in the entire process was flawed and corrupt,” the mayor said.

Gumede said the statement from spokesperson from the Hawks indicates that the investigation is continuing and intensifying and yet makes no mention of her being a suspect or of my imminent arrest. 

However, she said media articles chose headlines that gave the impression that her arrest was imminent while there is no confirmation from the named official spokesperson of the Hawks.

“There is clear evidence that the timing of these spurious allegations are meant to coincide with election campaign and the compilation of the candidate list processes. There is an unequivocal political agenda at play designed to influence political processes and further the intentions of some factions and ideological opponents.  It is tragic that reporters are becoming a pawn in this political game. The irresponsibility with which negative articles are penned, false as they are, takes no consideration for the potential unwarranted negative impact on the city of Durban, administration, investments and political component of the local government structure,” Gumede said.

She explained that she was instrumental in establishing the City Integrity and Investigation Unit (CIIU) and vesting it with wide powers to fight corruption

“I am and have always fought corruption in any form without fear or favour and will continue to do so. I shall continue to serve the city as I have and shall fearlessly defend my integrity and image.  I urge media institutions to be careful not to be used as conveyor belts of fake news or to be used as propaganda instruments by certain elements. I urge the media to continue to be the voice of the people and to call to order the few that are close to degenerating into becoming propaganda mercenaries,” Gumede said.

Daily News