Durban - Embattled eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede can still count on the support of the people she has lived among. A mother of four, Gumede was born and grew up in Amaoti near Inanda, north of Durban. It was there that she cut her political teeth in the ANC.
She never settled in one place due to her involvement in politics. As a result, she attended various schools including Amaoti Primary, Okhozini in Hammarsdale, Dr John Langalibalele Dube High school in KwaMashu and Zwelibanzi Secondary school in uMlazi township.
She has held various positions in a political career spanning more than 30 years. The highlight of her career was being elected mayor of eThekwini in 2016.
Gumede still has a house at Amaoti. The luxurious dwelling stands out as it is surrounded by smaller RDP homes. There was no sign of the mayor when the Sunday Tribune visited, but security was tight with guards posted at the gate.
While Gumede’s court appearance made headlines, some of those in the area were not concerned about the charges. To them, she had done nothing untoward.
Two women, Thobile Mdlevu and Zandile Ntshinga, said they stood by Gumede because she had brought development to the area. They think the allegations against her are politically motivated ahead of the ANC’s regional conference which is expected to be held in the coming weeks or months.
“Too many cases of corruption have been reported in the municipality before, but there has never been such intense scrutiny on the individual. We believe she has been pursued because she looks after the poor. She has helped many people feed their family through the expanded public works programme,” Mdlevu said.
Ntshinga said Gumede had brought infrastructures such as roads, water, electricity and modern flush toilets to the area.
“Mama Gumede has spearheaded the development of RDP houses after people were living in mud houses. Before it was gravel with no water and street lights, but now our dignity has been restored. To us she is a living legend who joined politics when it was not fashionable to do so facing teargas and dodging bullets from apartheid forces,” she said.
Another resident, Busi Mntungwa, said she was astonished by Gumede’s arrest because she had such respect for the mayor.
“I was very shocked after seeing her appearing in court. It was very humiliating. I needed a hole to bury myself. I trusted her so much. As a leader, she should prove her innocence to clear her tarnished image.”