eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede and co-accused Mondli Mthembu outside the court after their appearance in the Regional Commercial Crimes Court in Durban. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA).

DURBAN – Senior State prosecutor Ashika Lucken told the Durban commercial crimes court on Thursday morning that 286 subpoenas had been issued in the fraud, corruption and money laundering case involving Durban mayor Zandile Gumede and her co-accused.

Lucken made the statement during the second appearance of the accused, adding that the State’s case was on track but that an adjournment was being sought until January to allow for investigations to be completed.

Further arrests were also imminent, Lucken told the court.

Well known KwaZulu-Natal advocate Jimmy Howse was representing Gumede and senior ANC city councillor Mondli Mthembu, who also chairs the municipality’s infrastructure committee.

Howse said Gumede was as yet unaware of the basis of the charges she was facing and was thus unable to effectively defend herself against the allegations.

Gumede’s supporters have made the same complaint as they campaign for her to return to work.

His client maintained her innocence, said Howse.

Howse was successful in arguing for an amendment to the wording of Gumede’s bail conditions, which he said was “ambiguous”.

The bail conditions themselves do not change, with Gumede still not allowed to communicate with employees from Durban Solid Waste (DSW) or the finance, human resources and supply chain management departments.

Gumede has been placed on special, twice-extended leave by her political party, the African National Congress, amid a public outcry over the charges and the strict bail conditions.

Those bail conditions were instituted to ensure the mayor did not interfere with witnesses, according to the state.

It is highly likely that Gumede will use the amended wording of the bail conditions to try fight for her leave to be lifted so that she can return to work.

She is currently out on R50 000 bail and her duties have been taken over by the city’s deputy mayor, Fawzia Peer.

The other accused in the case are DSW’s deputy head for strategic and new developments Robert Abbu, and the city’s supply chain manager and chairman of the bid adjudication committee Sandile Ngcobo.

The remainder of those charged are companies. 

All of the accused are facing charges of fraud, fraud by omission, corruption, contravention of the Municipal Financial Management Act, contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, contravention of the Organised Crime Act and contravention of the Local Government Municipal Act in relation to a R208 million DSW contract from 2016. 

Gumede and Mthembu are further facing charges for contravention of the Riotous Assemblies Act for allegedly instigating an illegal gathering in April in which supporters called for the axing of city manager Sipho Nzuza, who allegedly refused to sign off on payments related to the dodgy contract.

The matter was postponed to January 15. 

Gumede is set to address her supporters outside the court soon. 

 African News Agency (ANA)