The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is expected to announce the conditions of the 30 days’ leave of absence for its eThekwini mayor and regional chairperson Zandile Gumede on Tuesday after a two-day lekgotla.
While waiting for the announcement on Sunday, Gumede herself confirmed that her leave begins on Monday and added that she had accepted the party’s instruction to vacate the mayoral office.
Gumede said she had been asked by the party’s provincial decision-making body to vacate her office.
“After I was arrested, the top five of the ANC leadership in KZN said I needed to take a decision to go on special leave but my lawyers advised me not to do so, and said the ANC must take a decision because if I do so, it would look like it’s an admission of guilt,” Gumede said.
On Sunday night, Gumede said she agreed to vacate her position because there was public pressure on the ANC to be seen to be doing something in the wake of the allegations.
She was confident that she would return to her position after the 30 days and said her party felt she was not able to focus on her duties, hence the leave.
“Why not? Look at the case of (Mluleki) Ndobe, the charges were withdrawn and he came back to his position. So if they do a thorough investigation, I will come back as mayor after the 30 days,” Gumede said.
She further lamented that the State had started by arresting her instead of first investigating the allegations.
Gumede vowed that she was not going to step down as mayor.
“I am not going to resign because if I do so it will be like I am pleading guilty for something I did not do,” she said.
“After the resolution of the ANC PEC (provincial executive committee), from (today) I am going to take a leave of absence,” she said.
It was not immediately clear what would happen in the 30 days while she is away on leave.
Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer, is expected to act in the position.
A source close to Gumede said she was expected to address her municipal staff about the latest political developments today.
The party’s decision to place Gumede on special leave comes as she is dealing with fraud and corruption charges emanating from a R208 million waste tender.
It was recently announced that the Hawks was investigating whether she violated her bail conditions in that case.
The party also took a decision to disband the eThekwini regional executive committee while preparing for a regional conference set for October.
Political analyst Xolani Dube said that Gumede would not go away quietly.
“I don’t think she will go down alone. I see her bitterly fighting back before leaving her position,” Dube said.
A defiant Gumede, speaking at the funeral of an ANC councillor, Bonke Chili, on Sunday described herself as a “wounded warrior who has been wounded by her own comrades”.
Gumede used former president Jacob Zuma’s favourite signature song Sengimanxebanxeba zinsizwa zangakithi, zinsizwa engakhula nazo, which loosely means “I am deeply wounded because of injuries inflicted by my own brothers”, to drum up public sympathy.
Also present at the funeral were some members of the party who are close to her, such as Nkosenhle Madlala, a municipal councillor, and Neli Nyanisa, the ANC’s chief whip in the eThekwini Municipality.
“The eThekwini council is unique because it is led by a woman, a woman who is deeply wounded and has been wounded by her own comrades. A woman who is trampled upon but still rises because God is on her side,” she told mourners.