DURBAN – eThekwini Municipality mayor Zandile Gumede used the presentation of the city’s R50.6 billion 2019/2020 budget on Wednesday to punt President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘Thuma Mina’ philosophy.
Gumede was presenting the budget before a full council meeting at the Durban City Hall.
“When you see poverty, hunger and unemployment, just raise your hand and say Thuma Mina! If you see our streets not being cleaned, rubbish piling up and our trees not being cut; raise your hand and say ‘send me’.
“When you see maladministration, corruption, lack of service delivery and laziness, just raise your hand and say ‘send me’. We must together respond to the call,” said Gumede.
Before she started her delivery, an opposition councillor from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Noorharpersadh Bitharthee lyir, asked Gumede to recuse herself from the delivery because of being criminally charged with graft earlier in the month.
The mayor is currently out on R50 000 bail, as is one of her alleged accomplices, a senior eThekwini councillor.
“The presence of two cadres who have been charged with fraud, corruption and money laundering...we believe they should actually leave this meeting here,” said Bitharthee lyir, to applause from other councillors.
But an ANC councillor shot back, saying the country’s constitution worked on the presumption of innocence and Gumede should be afforded the same right. This too garnered loud applause.
The DA also called on the mayor to recuse herself “to protect the integrity of this municipality”.
ANC councillors eventually broke into songs of support for Gumede and she continued with the presentation.
The mayor handed herself over to police earlier this month and was charged with fraud, corruption and racketeering relating to a multi-million rand Durban Solid Waste tender from 2016 onwards.
She was charged alongside councillor Robert Mthembu and a businessman. Two weeks before that, a clutch of other suspects were arrested on the same charges relating to the same alleged crime. All of the suspects were released on bail.
The mayor was given strict bail conditions, including being barred from certain offices in the municipality to avoid intimidating witnesses to the alleged crimes.
Gumede described the budget as an “action” one and called on councillors to ensure less talk and more implementation.
“We want no excuses and explanations for underspending, all we ask is for action,” she said.
“This is an action budget, it is an implementation season, an age of Thuma Mina. We want action, that is our emphasis.”
The budget reflected a rates increase of 6.9%, an electricity tariff increase of 13.07% and water tariff increases of 15% and 15.5% for domestic and business consumption respectively. The refuse tariff was increased by 9.9%.
Once the presentation was complete, Gumede and ANC councillors broke into singing Thuma Mina.