The pressure mainly came from Gumede’s supporters who are demanding that the ANC provincial working committee (PWC) review the party’s resolution to force party leaders who are facing criminal charges to step aside.
The provincial executive committee (PEC), during its special meeting in Empangeni, North Coast, last weekend, took a decision to force Gumede and Mahlaba to take a 30-day leave of absence.
ANC provincial spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu confirmed yesterday that in another meeting held in Durban this week and attended by branch secretaries and chairpersons, the PEC had a backlash from some branches that demanded that the resolution be scrapped. She said the Durban meeting did not have a formal outcome as it was not a consultative gathering.
“The nature of the meeting (in Durban) was to inform branches about the decision of the PEC and was not a consultative meeting.
“Yes, there are comrades who stood up in the meeting and opposed (the decision), but there are those who welcomed it,” said Simelane-Zulu.
According to sources within the ANC, the PWC met in eMalahleni region, northern KwaZulu-Natal, yesterday to brief the regional leadership about its decision to suspend Mahlaba, who is out on R20000 bail.
It had been reported that he had initially snubbed a PEC instruction to step aside while dealing with his murder charges in connection with the killing of local ANC Youth League leader Wandile Ngobeni in 2016.
However, Simelane-Zulu said Mahlaba this week agreed to take the forced leave of absence.
“The mayor (Mahlaba) had submitted a letter requesting to be allowed to step aside for the duration that had been requested by the PEC.
“He is not in the office as we speak, but the challenge that we are faced with in Newcastle is that we don’t have a deputy mayor and speaker because they have both moved to the National Assembly, so the leadership of the province is fast-tracking the issue of deployment,” said Simelane-Zulu.
Simelane-Zulu denied that the Newcastle meeting discussed Gumede and Mahlaba. She said during their 30-day leave of absence the provincial leadership would be working “on how to proceed after 30 days”.
“As soon as the 30 days are up we will indicate to the affected comrades and the regions on how we are moving forward with the matter.
“Allow the ANC to conduct its internal process and as soon as these 30 days are up we will indicate what is going to be the way forward,” she said.
Gumede and her co-accused are on R50000 bail each. She is facing fraud and corruption charges in connection with her municipality’s R208 million Durban Solid Waste contract.
ANC eThekwini councillors aligned with Gumede said out of 110 branches, she has the support of 106 branches who said they were not consulted before the decision to remove her was made.
“Before the Empangeni meeting, branch leaders wrote letters to Mdumiseni Ntulu (provincial secretary) asking to discuss Mama’s matter and we marched (to the ANC provincial office two weeks ago), but they removed the mayor without talking to us,” said a councillor.
On the ANC Whatsapp groups one of the branch leaders revealed that there was a strong call for a review of the policy against leaders who face criminal charges.