Durban - After months of vehement denials that the Hawks were going to arrest her, eThekwini Mayor, Zandile Gumede was expected to make a dramatic appearance in the Durban Commercial Crime Court on Tuesday on charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering.
The charges relate to a dodgy R208 million tender within the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) department that earlier this month saw nine people arrested including DSW deputy head, Robert Abbu and the city's supply chain manager, Sandile Ngcobo - for fraud relating to the same tender.
They have already appeared before the commercial crimes court. The other accused in the matter were service providers.
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, spokesperson for the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) while not naming the mayor said that three suspects will appear at the Durban Specialised Commercial Court today as part the Hawks’ National Clean Audit Task Team (NCATT) investigation at the Ethekwini Municipality.
"The three will face the same charges as the other nine suspects who were arrested two weeks ago on allegations of fraud and corruption in relation to a 2016 R208 million Durban Solid Waste tender where service providers were allegedly paid huge amounts of monies even though they did not render any service," he said.
"The nine suspects are Ethekwini Municipality Deputy Head of Strategy and New Development Robert Abbu (62), Supply Chain Manager Sandile Ngcobo (41), Hlenga Sibisi (43), Mzwandile Dludla (24), Sinthamone Ponnan (55), Sithulele Mkhize (38), Bongani Dlomo (53), and Prabagaram Pariah (61). "As indicated previously, the attendance of all those who played a role in the alleged offences, shall be secured before court where the allegations shall be tested." said the National Head of the DPCI, Godfrey Lebeya".
Gumede was expected to appear in court on Tuesday alongside senior municipal councillor Mondli Mthembu.
According to a report in City Press a police task team has been formed to investigate scores of other ward councillors in the city and is expected to conclude several corruption-related cases against them.
In December, City Press reported that Gumede, a staunch ally of former president Jacob Zuma, faced imminent arrest after a lengthy Hawks investigation into allegations of fraud, money laundering and corruption.
In May last year, City Press reported that the Hawks had launched the investigation into Gumede following a forensic investigation into the awarding of a contract to hire and clean chemical toilets.
A forensic report, compiled by Integrity Forensic Solutions which had been commissioned by the council’s own City Integrity and Investigations Unit, found that Gumede, Mthembu, and three officials orchestrated a tender scam which saw eThekwini pay R25 million to hire and clean chemical toilets for six months. The same council had previously paid R3 million to hire the same toilets for three years.
The report found that Mthembu, Gumede and three other officials had a hand in the scam.
But Mayor Gumede has vehemently denied the allegations calling the reports "epitome of gutter journalism at its worst” In a statement in December last year refuting the allegations, Gumede said the reports are “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 a 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.
“There is clear evidence that the timing of these spurious allegations are meant to coincide with the 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