Durban – Hundreds of supporters of criminally charged eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede -- currently on forced leave -- marched to the African National Congress (ANC) headquarters in Durban on Tuesday and refused to leave until they were assured Gumede would be reinstated.
The supporters, mostly dressed in ANC regalia, eventually grew restless as they waited for provincial ANC chairman Sihle Zikalala to address them and began pelting police with rocks, mielie cobs, oranges and stones as they tried to storm the headquarters.
A stone thrown by a protestor hit a photographer from a provincial newspaper on the chin. The protestors started gathering at the Durban beachfront in the late morning.
African News Agency (ANA) counted 20 buses, with several drivers saying they had transported the crowds from Umlazi and Ntuzuma. One of the bus drivers -- speaking on condition of anonymity -- told ANA that the buses had been “taken off-routes” to bus in the protestors.
Several people in the crowd told ANA they wanted Gumede reinstated by Wednesday morning. The mayor was placed on 30 days’ leave by provincial leadership two weeks ago amid a public outcry over the charges.
The protestors said they also wanted the regional task team overseeing affairs at the ANC eThekwini region dissolved.
Gumede was the chairperson of the eThekwini region until it was disbanded and the task team established. eThekwini is the biggest region in the country and holds considerable sway within the party.
ANC deputy provincial chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu tried to address the protestors but was shouted down and swiftly removed by the police.
The protestors insisted on speaking to Zikalala, who had not arrived by the time ANA left.
Zikalala is also the premier of KwaZulu-Natal and tensions between him and Gumede are said to be heightened.
Some of the protestors pulled out a mattress at sunset and food was brought in, ostensibly by other supporters.
Gumede handed herself over to police in mid-May and appeared at the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on charges including fraud, corruption and racketeering.
The charges relate to a R208 million Durban Solid Waste tender from 2016.
Gumede was arrested along with senior ANC councillor Mondli Mthembu and a businessman. Mthembu was also a leader in the ANC eThekwini region before the task team was established.
A clutch of other suspects were arrested two weeks prior to the arrest of Gumede, Mthembu and the businessman in relation to the same crime.
Gumede was also charged with contravening the riotous assembly act for allegedly organising a protest march against City Manager Sipho Nzuza.
Nzuza was one of those who supplied evidence of wrongdoing against Gumede when she was under investigation by the City’s integrity unit.
ANA revealed last week that both Gumede and Mthembu are being investigated by the country’s specialised crime fighting unit -- known as the Hawks -- for breach of their bail conditions.
African News Agency (ANA)