News / 13 August 2019, 1:00pm / SIHLE MAVUSO and SE-ANNE RALL
Durban - EMBATTLED eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede was fired by the ANC Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) last night.
Speaker of the council, William Mapena, and chief whip, Neli Nyanisa, were also given the boot, according to three independent ANC sources who attended the PEC meeting.
The fate of acting mayor Fawzia Peer and city manager Sipho Nzuza was unclear at the time of going to publication.
Speculation was rife that the party was to take action against Nzuza and deputy city manager for economic development Philip Sithole.
Gumede’s three-month battle to stay in power started in May when she was charged with fraud and corruption in connection with an alleged dodgy R208-million Durban Solid Waste (DSW) tender.
According to sources at the PEC meeting, Gumede had garnered support from several regional structures who were also backed by other senior PEC members.
However, she was eventually fired.
Contacted for comment by The Mercury last night, Gumede said she had not been informed of her axing by the PEC.
She said she had only seen reports on television and would only respond once the decision had been formally communicated to her.
The decision to fire the whole troika instead of just Gumede was seen as a way of trying to dispel the notion that she was the only target, said the sources.
Instead, the leadership wanted it to look as if there was a clean-up of the troubled metro and other municipalities under the ANC in KZN, they said.
They added that the ANC had used a report compiled on the state of 11 municipalities, including eThekwini, to dismiss the team. The report allegedly painted a bleak picture of the failing city, attributed to the leadership of Gumede.
This according to the sources, justified her sacking.
Among the allegations in the report were infighting, rampant corruption and a complete collapse of service delivery.
“There was a debate on whether she was fired because of her court case or the failing metro. The city’s riddled with corruption and has also come under scrutiny for failure to spend some grants given to it. But, in the end the province said it was using the state of the metro to get rid of her and the team that came in with her in 2016,” said a source.
Before the provincial executive committee meeting started on Sunday, the spokesperson of the party, Ricardo Mthembu, spoke about the report and the recommendations, saying there was a need to change leadership in municipalities based on their failure to deliver.
A pro-Gumede councillor, who asked not to be named, said the decision to sack Gumede spelled disaster for the ANC.
“Be careful that she doesn’t come back strongly with the support of other disgruntled regions to contest the chairperson of the province.”
But eThekwini was not the only municipality affected by the changes - the Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg) mayor Themba Njilo, was also fired, along with his controversial deputy, Thobani Zuma. The axe fell too on Richmond mayor Sibusiso Joe Mchunu.
They were allegedly dismissed because of the state of their failing municipalities.
DA caucus leader in eThekwini Municipality, Nicole Graham said the party was awaiting confirmation of the decision, but hoped that the action had been taken. Graham said the buck did not stop with Gumede as other municipal officials and councillors had also been implicated.
“There’s a lot of mess that needs to be undone. This is definitely a step in the right direction,” she said.
Asked if the party would welcome the ANC’s decision on the matter, IFP eThekwini exco member Mdu Nkosi said if it happened, the mayor’s axing would be a positive step for service delivery.
EFF KZN chairperson Vusi Khoza said they welcomed the decision to axe Gumede, but were waiting for the investigation into 62 councillors who had participated in corrupt activities in the city: “Finally the ANC has come to its senses and they did the right thing,” he said.
Political analyst Xolani Dube said that the ANC was making a mistake by axing Zandile Gumede.
“This is political suicide for the PEC in KZN and is similar to what the DA did when they removed Patricia de Lille as mayor in Cape Town. It’s not just Zandile Gumede but 62 councillors who have been implicated in fraud and corruption, and they will have to remove 62 councillors based on this precedent.
“This is the beginning of a battle ahead of the regional elective conference,” Dube said.