The appointment of corruption-accused former eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede, to the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature is an insult to South Africans and an affront to claims by the KZN provincial government that it will not tolerate corruption within its ranks, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) says.
“Her redeployment by the KZN ANC is of further concern considering she was ostensibly removed as mayor for poor performance and not for her alleged links to a R430 million City waste contract scandal,” the organisation says in a statement.
This move is also a clear climb-down from a decision taken by the KZN ANC provincial executive council in March 2019 that stated “all comrades charged with serious crimes must step aside from their positions of responsibility in government, pending the conclusion of their legal cases”, according to the statement.
Outa Project Manager in KZN, Tim Tyrrell, says instead of Gumede facing the consequences of her poor leadership, she has been rewarded.
“Gumede’s earnings will now drastically increase. As an ordinary councillor she earned a gross salary of about R512 000 per annum. As a member of the provincial legislature (MPL) in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, her gross salary will be R1.1 million as well as several perks, such as 24 free flights a year and various other allowances,” says Tyrrell.
But in an interview with eNCA Gumede hit back, claiming the media had “dented her name” and saying “it is not a reward, it is a continuation of work for the committee, because they know how hard I can work”.
Zandile Gumede says the media dented her image as a first female mayor of eThekwini. She blames the media for implying that women cannot be efficient in the mayoral position. She also says that appointment in the KZN legislature is a continuation of the work she has been doing. pic.twitter.com/75VZs1Os0M
— eNCA (@eNCA) August 20, 2020
“It’s just opening another door for me to continue working for the people. There’s no reward,” she said.
On a question of why she had been removed from the eThekwini mayor’s post if they knew how hard she could work, Gumede answered: “Just be honest. Did you see any collapse in eThekwini? Leadership was clear, it was because of you as media people… you went all out to make sure that, as the first woman mayor of eThekwini, you are denting my name. And also, as the first chairperson of the African National Congress, you are denting my name.”
She added that what the media was trying to do was to say that “women can’t make it”.
The former mayor was arrested in May 2019 on charges of corruption and was removed from the position of eThekwini mayor by the ANC in August that year. She is currently out on R50 000 bail for her alleged role in a Durban Solid Waste tender scandal that involved other councillors, officials and service providers, with the quantum of the crime now sitting at R430 million and rising, Outa says.
After Gumede was removed as mayor she remained in the council as a proportional representation councillor.
In September 2019 ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said the removal of Gumede as mayor had “little to do with her arrest and much more to do with the general assessment of the performance of the municipality”.
Outa Project Manager, Thabile Zuma, elaborates: “It is unclear what benefit Zandile Gumede will bring to the provincial legislature. Considering she was officially removed as mayor for her poor governance performance, her skills are wholly unsuited within a legislature setting. If she was unofficially removed because of the criminal charges, then her lack of judgment for at the very least being tainted by such a scandal should be questioned. It is unfair that South Africans should carry her financially while she attempts to clear her name.”
Outa’s parliamentary engagement manager, Matt Johnston, says national and provincial parliaments are supposed to play the crucial role of overseeing the executive.
“This means that these institutions should be bastions of integrity and ethical conduct. Unfortunately, the opposite appears to be closer to the truth. The deployment of tainted persons in important positions has eroded public confidence in government almost beyond repair.
“The deployment of high ranking politicians with unresolved allegations of corruption against them in South Africa’s legislatures is a systemic problem,” says Johnston.
Johnston added that after the 2019 national and provincial elections, there was “some public hope” that the ANC’s Integrity Commission would preclude politicians with highly questionable backgrounds from holding higher office.
Sadly, this did not happen. Examples of such persons are:
- Tina Joemat-Petterson (now chairperson of the Police Committee in the National Assembly);
- Bongani Bongo (now chairperson of the Home Affairs Committee in the National Assembly);
- Faith Muthambi (now chairperson of the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Committee in the National Assembly); and
- Mosebenzi Zwane (now chairperson of the Transport Committee in the National Assembly).
Outa has laid criminal charges against some of these individuals.
“Rather than facing the music and suffering tangible consequences for alleged wrongdoing, they enjoy comfortable salaries and a wide range of benefits at South African citizens’ expense. In fact, these benefits apply even after Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Parliaments retire,” says Johnston.
In the light of President Ramaphosa’s many recent promises to act against corruption, Outa calls on him and the ANC leadership to reconsider this decision and remove Gumede from any leadership position in government (local, provincial or national) until she can prove her innocence in a court of law.