Suspended eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says because the fraud and corruption charges against suspended eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede, are still under investigation, it is not legally compelled to provide more details when requested even by her legal team. 

Gumede, together with senior eThekwini councillor, Mondli Mthembu and nine others are returning to court on Thursday morning without having the details of their charges. 

The prosecuting authority was responding to concerns raised by Gumede’s supporters that the failure to furnish her with more details about the case was prejudicing her, fuelling perceptions that the charges are politically motivated. 

The acting director of the NPA in KZN, Adv Elaine Zungu, said to begin with, there was no request for information from the supporters.  

“The Prosecution team has advised that there has been no request for information from the supporters. Even if there had been a request, the State has no obligation to provide it. The matter is still under investigation and no information will be disclosed to any person at this stage. The accused are legally represented and they are aware of the legal processes that can be used when they require information from the State. All arguments will be dealt with in court on 8 August 2019,” Zungu said in response. 

Meanwhile, media freedom advocacy organisation, Right2Know, has called upon the presidency to ensure that when Gumede makes her court appearance on Thursday, journalists are not hindered or threatened in any way in the discharge of their duties.

In a statement, the organisation said it has become a norm that whenever the suspended eThekwini Mayor appear in court, her supporters and police threatened and manhandle journalists.

“It is shocking in a country that claims to be democratic for journalists to be treated in the manner in which the world witnessed last month and that there haven’t been any repercussions on those responsible for trampling on media freedom. We condemn the unabated verbal attacks and obstruction of journalists to freely cover the court appearance of eThekwini Mayor. The Right2Know Campaign is concerned about the growing acts of targeting journalists in the line of duty by state agents who infringe on freedom of expression and press freedom. The media environment is increasingly getting unduly restricted by both state and non-state agents,” the organisation said. 

It also said the state must at all times respect, promote and uphold the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and media freedom.

“We also call on the office of the KZN MEC for Community Safety and Liaison and the KZN SAPS Provincial Commissioner to make sure that police don’t interfere with media and take disciplinary action against the police who intimidate and abuse journalists. The attacks and threats which range from assault and denial of access to news scenes, damage of equipment are worsened by arrests and detention of journalists.”

Political Bureau