eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA).

DURBAN – The African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal said on Friday that as far as it was aware, the party’s national integrity committee had not asked eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede to step down.

The party also denied that a special provincial working committee meeting had taken place this week during which it was decided that Gumede should step down. 

“There was no provincial working committee meeting this week at which we discussed mayor Gumede stepping down and we have not been told by the ANC integrity committee that it has asked her to step down,” the party’s provincial spokesperson, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, told African News Agency (ANA) on Friday afternoon.

Gumede is also the chairperson of the ANC eThekwini region, the biggest in the country. She handed herself over to police on Tuesday morning along with eThekwini councillor Mondli Mthembu, who is also the ANC eThekwini deputy regional secretary, and businessman Craig Poonan.

The trio was charged with fraud, corruption and racketeering relating to a R208 million Durban Solid Waste tender from 2016 for which service providers were allegedly paid millions of rands but did no work. They were each released on R50 000 bail. 

Several others implicated in the same case were arrested two weeks earlier. They included eThekwini’s deputy head of strategy and new development, Robert Abbu, and supply chain manager Sandile Ngcobo. Service providers were also arrested. The group was released on between R30 000 and R50 000 bail and will appear again - along with Gumede, Mthembu and Poonan - in August. 

Gumede's image has taken a battering since her arrest, with opposition parties, civil society bodies and social groups demanding she exit the mayoral office. 

Despite this, about 400 ANC members marched from the Durban beachfront to the party’s provincial headquarters in the central business district earlier on Friday to show their support for Gumede.

Dressed in ANC colours, they brandished placards accusing the provincial ANC youth league secretary, Thanduxolo Sabelo, of being in cahoots with police minister Bheki Cele and the directorate for priority crime investigation (Hawks), which investigated the dodgy tender.

Numerous protesters told ANA they were convinced the charges against Gumede were “lies” that were “meant to divide the ANC” and "take the clean mayor from power".

African News Agency (ANA)