OUTA said it would take legal action against eThekwini Municipality if it did not act against its graft accused mayor, Zandile Gumede. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban – The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) said on Tuesday that it would take legal action against eThekwini Municipality if it did not act against its graft accused mayor, Zandile Gumede.

OUTA has previously publicly called on Gumede to step aside and also called on the African National Congress (ANC) to recall her as mayor.  

“The lack of any form of oversight undertaken by the eThekwini Metro against the criminally charged Mayor Zandile Gumede and her co-accused, is an insult to city residents and if action is not taken soon OUTA will explore legal recourse to hold the eThekwini council to account,” said OUTA KZN provincial manager, Tim Tyrrell.

He said OUTA had written to the city’s executive committee members on July 1 and told them that their inaction on Gumede would amount to “a dereliction of duty” and that OUTA reserved its rights in order to ensure that the interests of the community prevailed.

Tyrrell said there was a substantial body of evidence within the public domain suggesting that Gumede and her co-accused -- executive committee councillor Mondli Mthembu -- had breached the code of conduct for councillors, as set out in the Municipal Systems Act, schedule 1, paragraph 11.

“The Speaker and the Council have a legislative duty to act in the best interests of the community, which includes but is not limited to taking the appropriate steps against councillors and officials suspected of unethical and improper conduct,” said Tyrrell.

Gumede, Mthembu and businessman Craig Poonan were charged in mid-May for their alleged roles in a fraudulent R208 million Durban Solid Waste tender dating back to 2016. They are currently out on R50 000 bail each.

Several others implicated in the same crime were arrested just before the trio. All of the suspects are set to appear again at the Durban Commercial Crimes Court in August.

Much to the chagrin of the public, opposition parties and civil society groups, Gumede was not asked to step aside by the ANC and was instead placed on 30 days’ leave while the party deliberated a way forward.  

Tyrrell said OUTA had found at least four instances of a possible breach of the councillors’ code of conduct by Gumede and Mthembu.

These were: Sitting in and interfering with the various Supply Chain Management committees and instructing its members to award contracts to certain companies, and interfering with various levels of the administration and making them act unlawfully.

Additionally, there was evidence – included in an affidavit presented at court in May by the investigating officer in the case – that Gumede and Mthembu had forced the contractors who stand accused alongside them to sub-contract to certain suppliers, thus interfering with Supply Chain Management protocol.

It was also revealed in court that Gumede had incited a march to Durban City Hall in mid-April wherein protestors demanded the removal of city manager Sipho Nzuza. This was alleged because Nzuza – who it is understood has since turned state witness – would not sign off on payments for the dodgy tender.

African News Agency (ANA)