State lays bare how Zandile Gumede and co-accused allegedly looted eThekwini coffers
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Durban - In a late and unexpected comeback, the State has finally been able to indict former eThekwini mayor and KZN legislature MPL, Zandile Gumede, and her 20 co-accused with corruption and the charge sheet reveals how she, her relatives and the ANC in eThekwini, among scores of dubious beneficiaries, scored cash in kickbacks.
The matter was heard by magistrate Dawn Somaroo on Tuesday and it has since been moved to the Durban High Court for a pre-trial hearing, with the first sitting billed for June 14.
In the 347-page indictment, the State starts by outlining how the grand scheme to loot the coffers of the municipality started late in 2016, when Gumede took over as mayor after a bruising political battle with former mayor, James Nxumalo.
The State alleges that Gumede, on ascending to the municipal throne, spoke about “radical economic transformation” and said the policy would be explained to ANC councillors by senior councillor Mondli Mthembu (also from the ANC and a backer of Gumede), one of the co-accused in the high profile trial.
It further alleged Gumede and Mthembu then co-opted other councillors (whom they once told in a meeting that they were aware of their personal financial difficulties) to make sure that they benefit in the awarding of the R320 million (revised down from R389m after excluding VAT) for Durban Solid Waste (DSW).
Gumede and Mthembu then allegedly roped in the suspended eThekwini city manager to join them in their alleged grand scheme of corruption.
It was Sipho Nzuza who realised that there was a senior municipality official called Ray Rampersad who was giving them a headache.
To bypass Rampersad, Nzuza, with the blessing of Gumede, appointed Robert Abbu as head of “special projects” and the alleged looting began.
Abbu then had the leeway of bypassing Rampersad while implementing irregular instructions by claiming that he was reporting to “City Hall” where the mayor and city manager sits.
“During October 2017, Abbu was appointed by the city manager, Sipho Nzuza, as the ’Head Special Projects’. This post did not exist in the establishment of eThekwini and is not funded. Nzuza did not follow the established protocols in appointing Abbu to the position. Mr Nzuza was instructed by Gumede and Mthembu to appoint Abbu into the position,” the State alleges in the extensive charge sheet.
When the grand corruption finally took off, the State alleges that Abbu, Gumede and Nzuza regularly communicated via their cellphones and discussed tenders.
“The cellphone records of Gumede, Mthembu and Nzuza reflect extensive communication between the trio during times when material decisions were being made about the new DSW contract,” the State alleges.
Then comes the part where the State spells out how Gumede, her daughters and some distant relatives like Selby Gumede, who owns (and has direct links to the Zandile Gumede foundation) NUZ Events, a company whose music concerts like Lovers and Friends, held at Moses Mabhida’s People’s Park, scored direct financial benefits of R150 000.
At some point, Gumede’s rent at one of her rented palatial homes in the suburb of Phoenix in the north of Durban, was paid for by one of the four contractors (Illanga) that scored a tender.
“On the 25 October Illanga transferred R30 000 into Gumede’s bank account. On 26 April 2018 Illanga transferred R28 000 into the bank account of ZP Gumede (Gumede’s daughter) ... Between the period January 2017 to March 2019, R824 450.00 was deposited into Gumede’s (not clear which Gumede in this case) bank account from mainly a person known to the State,” reads part of the summary of payments to Gumede and her relatives.
Other than Gumede and Mthembu, the ward councillors who are part of the corruption trial are Siduduzo Khuzwayo, Mthokozisi Nojiyeza and Bhekokwakhe Phewa.
More details of the corruption trial, as contained in the indictment, will follow in later stories.