Zandile Gumede. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)
She is a powerful manipulator who established a strong patronage network that helped her achieve political dominance to many. To others, she is a hard-working woman from a humble background in Inanda, who worked her way to the top.

But answering the question, who is Zandile Gumede, the ousted mayor of Durban, and how did she amass such power and support, is not easy.

Notably, though, her supporters, allies and political foes agreed that she used her work with people on the ground to rise to the upper echelons, and she was a leader who remained connected to her people.

According to a neighbour of Gumede, who is an ANC member, she was initially not interested in politics until the late 1990s when there was a political scuffle in her ward, 53, in Inanda, north of Durban. Two candidates had divided the ANC in the area and were fighting for the vacant councillor position.

Gumede, who was then working for the Inanda Development Forum, a platform that gave her access to the poor and local households, was asked to step in as an interim councillor until the infighting subdued. It is believed this is where she got her first taste of political power, and she has used it decisively since then.

“She used that opportunity to get close to political leaders in eThekwini Municipality and she never looked back as she started building a power base for herself,” the neighbour said.

A sworn political enemy of Gumede in the structures of eThekwini ANC region was candid about her, and said rumours she was once a supporter of the IFP were lies.

“There is nothing that links her with the opposition. They are lying. Remember that the part of Inanda where she comes from was not under the bantustan of KwaZulu, but under white South Africa.

“Even though her father was a policeman, he was not a ZP (the notorious Zulu Police), and those officers never took part in politics or sided with political parties like the ZPs,” the leader said.

The leader attributed Gumede’s strong support base to her ability to maintain a network of patronage, including municipal workers, councillors and active members of the ANC.

Timeline of events leading up to Gumede's arrest:

* Zandile Gumede was arrested on May 14, 2019, over a R208 million waste tender in 2017 where she and Mondli Mthembu, a senior ANC councillor, who has also been axed, are accused of pocketing bribes. She was granted bail of R50 000.

* On June 10, the ANC suspended her, with provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli, saying it wanted to look at the matter as there were allegations that the case had been politically motivated.

* On July 11, Gumede’s supporters staged a violent protest outside Durban City Hall, closing the administrative capital of the metro and the revenue office.

* On August 13, the KZN provincial executive committee announced it had relieved Gumede of her position.

* On Wednesday, August 14, she issued a statement saying she wanted to clear her name and that she would not be silenced.

* On Thursday, August 15, the KZN PEC met to discuss who would be appointed Gumede's successor.

Political Bureau