eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. File photo: ANA/Motshwari Mofokeng.
eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. File photo: ANA/Motshwari Mofokeng.
Durban - THE supporters of eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede are not prepared to let her vacate her office without a fight.

Shortly after Gumede appeared at the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, police intercepted a WhatsApp voice recording in which there was a call to arms.

According to a source close to the investigation, the voice recording was shared among people known to be supporters of Gumede.

“If the gun must fire, let it fire. We are ready to fight. Bring it on,” was what the speaker said.

On Friday, a large number of Gumede’s supporters showed their support for the embattled mayor when they gathered outside the ANC’s provincial headquarters in Durban’s CBD.

In a memorandum that was accepted by Bheki Ntuli, an ANC provincial executive committee member, the protesters demanded Gumede remain in office.

Leaked WhatsApp audio calls on Zandile Gumede's supporters to take up arms.

Gumede, along with councillor Mondli Mthembu and businessman Craig Ponnan appeared in court on Tuesday to face fraud and corruption charges related to a R208million Durban Solid Waste tender.

They were each granted R50000 bail by magistrate Dawn Soomaroo.

This after nine other people also linked to the matter, including Robert Abbu, the deputy head of Durban Solid Waste, and eThekwini’s deputy head of supply chain management unit Sandile Ngcobo, appeared before Soomaroo earlier this month.

The State, led by prosecutor Ashika Lucken, claimed Gumede and the officials used their influence to direct at least 58 fraudulent works orders to four Durban companies that were part of their cabal.

What incensed supporters of Gumede was a video of her in the court’s holding cell. It, too, was circulated on social media.

“Even in this video that you are showing repeatedly is propaganda. It is those police that were videoing Ma (Gumede). Ma had come to court, waited to pay bail and be released. It’s those police that videoed her. There was no media there, I was there

“Hey, we won’t listen, we won’t retreat, we won’t go back. If the gun must fire, let it fire. We are ready to fight. Bring it on,” was the rallying call made by the speaker.

The speaker also said: “It started with Comrade Jacob Zuma. When will you realise that the fight is against a person who speaks isiZulu. When will you see this.

“You keep saying we must calm down. Nonsense man! Let’s arm and attack. Let death come if death comes. We did not come to earth to live forever. Get away, hypocrites.”

Spokesperson for the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said many recordings had been heard, “but nothing is going to deter us from doing our work”.

“I don’t know why people were saying police treated the mayor unfairly. We asked her to hand herself over to police like we did with the other suspects in this matter.”

Mulaudzi said police officers respected Gumede regarding the allegations made against her and there was no complaint from her.

He accused those who made the claims against police with “playing politics”.

“We don’t have time for that. If any threat emerges, we will deal with it,” Mulaudzi assured.

Advocate Jay Naidoo, Gumede’s legal representative, said it was not necessarily the police who circulated the video as there was another awaiting trial prisoner with a cellphone in the cell.

On the charges Gumede faced, Naidoo said: “She is not involved or benefited in any way. The State had indicated on record that its investigations were not yet complete. Only time will tell whether the arrest was premature and unlawful, it might well reveal that she has had no involvement in this.”

According to the bail conditions set by Soomarro, Gumede and the others were not allowed to communicate with officials and employees in supply chain management, human resources and legal, cleansing and solid waste and finance.

Naidoo said Gumede was not an executive mayor and that the final call on award of tenders rested with the city manager (CM) and the chief financial officer (CFO).

“The investigations will reveal on what basis the CM and CFO authorised the transactions that formed part of the charges. We also don’t know the exact nature of the allegations against her. In broad terms they say fraud and corruption. In the investigating officer’s affidavit, there is no detail to say the mayor did A, B or C,” Naidoo said.

On whether his client should step down and be suspended by the ANC, Naidoo said: “Gumede has the right to be presumed innocent until guilty, that is paramount.

“My mandate is to handle the criminal matter. I have nothing to do with her political relations with the ANC.

“She is confident that she will see this matter through, that there is no evidence that will show that she was corrupt in any way.”

Sunday Tribune