News / 16 May 2019, 11:18am / SIHLE MAVUSO AND KAILENE PILLAY
DURBAN - As pressure mounts on embattled eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede to vacate her position after she appeared in court on corruption-related charges on Tuesday, speculation is rife that the ANC is looking at replacing tainted mayors in KwaZulu-Natal with seasoned administrators from its ranks.
In March, the ANC in KZN announced that its members who had been charged with serious crimes should step down from their positions pending the outcome of their court cases. ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said an extraordinary meeting of the ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) had come to this decision.
“This decision is inspired by a commitment and determination to defend and advance the interests of our movement and that of the masses of our people. It does not mean an acceptance of guilt, nor to cast aspersions on the innocence of the accused members of the ANC,” he said.
He said the integrity, reputation and standing of the organisation was far greater than any of its individual leaders.
Gumede is one of two KZN mayors who face serious criminal charges.
Newcastle mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba was arrested earlier this year for the 2015 murder of ANC Youth League eMalahleni leader Wandile Ngobeni.
ANC provincial spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the party leadership had given Mahlaba 30 days to resign from office, a deadline which had passed just before the election last week.
Speaking to The Mercury yesterday, Simelane-Zulu said she could not pre-empt whether the party would approach Gumede in a similar way.
A highly placed source told Independent Media yesterday that the party was likely to appoint a former MEC, whose name is known to The Mercury, to replace Gumede.
“It is likely that this is going to happen as the ANC wants to stabilise the metro before it is lost to the opposition,” said the source.
Another source, a councillor in the eThekwini metro who did not want to be named, said the ANC was likely to act soon.
The councillor said the current administration had failed and in townships such as uMlazi, waste had not been collected for days and contractors had not been paid.
“We need change here as soon as possible or else we will lose the metro,” the councillor said.
Political analyst Bheki Mngomezulu said after “a knock” during the elections, the ANC now faced a difficult decision - of whether to remove Gumede or keep her on as mayor of the party’s only KZN metro.
He said the party would have to play a balancing act.
“There is a possibility of the ANC losing this metro, depending on how they manage this issue. If they leave her in her position, they will be going back on their party promises, but if they remove her they will have to deal with her constituency and supporters who could argue that the president is victimising her. They would argue that she is innocent until proven guilty,” Mngomezulu said.
He said that it was better if President Cyril Ramaphosa removed Gumede as mayor “but he would have to be tactful by citing other reasons for her removal”.
“This is a very tricky situation for the ANC and keeping her on as mayor would not bode well for the president’s image. The decision must be made, no matter how difficult it is,” he said.
ANC national spokesperson Dakota Legoete said they were waiting for the recommendation from the provincial structure before making a decision on Gumede’s fate.
Another political analyst, Professor Somadoda Fikeni, said that if the pressure for Gumede to step down as mayor grew, the party might yield.
“I don’t think they will ask her to resign but they may suggest she take a leave of absence to concentrate on the case. She is the chair of the region and has a constituency,” he said.
Fikeni said that the ANC had time before the 2021 local government elections to allow the legal processes to follow before making a call on her removal.
“If they allow the law to take its course, they could spin it either way. If she is convicted or cleared, the ANC could say that it allowed the law to take its course before making a decision,” Fikeni said.