eThekwini Mayor Cllr Zandile Gumede delivering her budget speech in the City hall. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA).
Durban - Embattled eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede has found her voice. Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, she called for an investigation into the promotion of uMkhonto we Sizwe veterans.

It was this issue that resulted in violent strikes at the beginning of May and on the eve of the general elections.

Gumede apologised for the disruptions, but said she had nothing to do with the employment or promotion of staff.

She said she wanted the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, nationally and provincially, to institute an independent investigation which would assist the ANC in understanding how the veterans were promoted.

“I am waiting for municipal lawyers, the city manager and the department to investigate how these soldiers were promoted from Grade 4 salaries to Grade 10 salaries. And, after the release of the report, heads must roll.

“This was done by the human resources and had nothing to do with any councillor. I want to expose and embarrass those who did this because everything we do must be within the law,” said Gumede, who became mayor in August 2016.

Speaking to the media for the first time since her arrest on charges of fraud and corruption, Gumede said she was confident her name would be cleared.

Gumede appeared in the Commercial Crimes Court in Durban on May 14. She has been implicated in wrong-doing relating to a R208 million Durban Solid Waste tender.

She is one of 12 people charged with contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act, the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and contravention of the Riotous Assemblies Act.

It is alleged that service providers were paid millions of rands by the city for work they did not undertake.

Gumede said, as councillor and mayor, she had nothing to do with the issuing of contracts.

“It is being done by officials. Since the matter is in court, you will see it implicating and embarrassing certain officials. The case will help us to expose people who are doing things without following the law,” she said.

Gumede worked her way up from humble beginnings to become Durban’s first citizen. She is also the chairperson of the ANC’s eThekwini region, the region with the most members countrywide.

In recent weeks, there has been speculation that the ANC would suspend Gumede as mayor pending her trial.

Gumede told the Sunday Tribune that she had received no such letter from the party.

“But I am in discussion with the ANC, but the results of those discussions will be released at the right time.

“The ANC believes in starting by investigating and making findings before suspending a person. It does not just tell a person to go away,” said Gumede.

In response to calls from her own party, opposition parties and civil society organisations that she step down, Gumede said: “Dogs only bark at a moving car.”

She claimed those who wanted her to step down were jealous of her success and intimidated by her work. This included introducing a framework for radical economic transformation which had opened up opportunities for young people.

She said she had also ensured military veterans were given opportunities, but added this was done within the confines of the law.

“So, they will never like a person who works hard. If I was clumsy and lazy they would love me and I would be their darling,” she said.

According to Gumede, she had nothing to do with a march that was organised recently by eThekwini’s ANC Women’s League in her support.

“I was not even here in Durban on the day of the march. My supporters know that I am a seasoned cadre of the ANC who will never ever instruct people to march as I believe in discussing issues.

“But you cannot stop people from marching because the power of the ANC is within branches.”

She urged her supporters to be patient and wait for the outcome of her case. As to how she was coping with the pressure, Gumede said her troubles had become a source of strength.

“If the gold had to be turned into a ring or an earring or a necklace you burn it in fire to make it right. The pains that I am going through will benefit people of eThekwini because when all this is over, I will apply the law to remove people who committed offences within the municipality by using other people’s names”.

Gumede is back in court on August 8.

Sunday Tribune