Targeted for being a ‘driver of change’, says former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede
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DURBAN - FORMER eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede has described herself as the “pioneer of economic transformation” in the municipality, claiming that her determination to put black people at the centre of economic activity was the reason that corruption charges were laid against her.
Gumede, who spoke exclusively to The Mercury on the eve of her court appearance today, said that when she took over the position of ANC chairperson in the eThekwini region her mandate from the branches was to “dismantle” the outdated allocation of contracts in the municipality that favoured white businesses at “the expense of emerging Indian and African companies”.
Gumede said there was an urgent need in 2016 to push for 30% of municipal contracts to go to previously disadvantaged groups after it emerged that the top 20 of the 150 companies that benefited from municipal business were owned by white and Indian businesses.
“I think we made the mistake of underestimating the third hand of white monopoly capital who worked with some of our comrades in the ANC to go against the ideals of the Freedom Charter,” said Gumede.
Speaking about the controversial Durban Solid Waste (DSW) contract that has landed her in hot water, she said the project was meant to empower small businesses in townships that would operate as sub-contractors to ensure that “everyone gets a slice of the cake”.
“The DSW contract was transparent and above board to the extent that Business Support advertised the tender and spelled out how refuse is going to be collected. This project was true empowerment of our people.”
Gumede lamented the state of the city, particularly the lack of refuse removal and burst pipes, alleging that people were getting paid without doing the work while rubbish was piling up.
She said during her reign as mayor a decision was made that emerging businesses controlled by black companies (Indian, coloured and African) be prioritised in the allocation of contracts to correct the imbalances of the past.
“We were so determined to make RET (radical economic transformation) the driver of service delivery in eThekwini, to the extent that the policy was approved by council, and we even appointed an RET champion to drive monitoring and implementation. When attacks started against us, even the officials that were driving this policy were victimised.”
According to Gumede, some of the city’s transformation practices that started during her tenure were still in operation. “The auctioning of municipal vehicles in eThekwini was changed to ensure that small companies and co-ops have a chance, instead of a situation where the big guys used to take everything. That concept of auctioning municipality vehicles that is still in use today is my legacy.
“The empowerment of black businesses in the multimillion-rand Point development project, and the Anton Lembede Street (Smith Street) pipeline and upgrading project is something that I initiated. I am also proud of the work we did where we removed all the informal traders that were doing business all over the city and put up a space for them in Lorne Street,” said Gumede.
She said it was unfortunate that ANC leaders advancing transformation and those deployed by the party to lead state-owned enterprises had been vilified, attacked and branded as corrupt and described in the media as looters.
“Black people in SOEs fighting for transformation are branded as corrupt, but former president Nelson Mandela taught us that we should work with the apartheid government despite all that they did to us.”
Speaking on the activities of the business forums that have been invading construction sites and demanding a stake in construction projects, Gumede said the chaos was due to the resistance of big business to work with their counterparts to make sure that everybody benefited in the economy.
“If we can all unite, black, Indian and whites, and speak with one voice with a genuine desire to empower each other, our country can be great again. However, it cannot be that black people should continue to live in squalor and those who have the means are not willing to even share the left-overs.
“If we allow that to happen, we will live to regret it,” said Gumede.