KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala says that former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede’s appointment to the provincial legislature was not the best solution but was “solving one problem with another”.
During an engagement with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) on Friday, Zikalala also said Gumede’s legislature appointment was not a promotion.
Gumede, who is facing charges of corruption and fraud, was on Wednesday sworn in as a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature.
Zikalala said since Gumede was not removed as a councillor, it created “a situation that is not healthy” because her co-accused and witnesses in the matter are still within the municipality.
“Secondly, she is a councillor having being a mayor and you’ve got now a new mayor and that creates a situation which is unhealthy,” Zikalala said, explaining that it is always better for a former leader to either exit or be assigned elsewhere, so the ANC decided that the way to solve that problem was for her to be sworn into the legislature.
“For now I would say the society is correct in saying this is solving one problem by another problem,” Zikalala said, adding that society expects that those facing charges should be removed.
Zikalala said the ANC at the national level was working on guidelines on how such situations should be dealt with, whether those facing charges should be removed “totally” or withdrawn from EXCO and made ordinary councillors or redeployed to the legislature, and whether they should also step down from party positions.
The premier acknowledged that it was a difficult situation to manage, adding that though some may think she was promoted when sworn into the legislature, “in essence” she was not “because she is not going to the executive”.
Zikalalala said he did not believe Gumede would be deployed to chair the local government portfolio committee at legislature because she comes from a municipality where “there have been issues”.
He acknowledged that the party cannot say Gumede’s redeployment to the legislature is the best solution, but said it was done to find a balance, solve “one problem with another”, and to “dilute” tensions that could have arisen at the eThekwini council.
The premier said the governing party respects the view that the party may seem confused as it has not given clarity on how those charged are to be dealt with and reiterated that guidelines to deal with such matters would be finalised soon.
Gumede has appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on charges linked to tender irregularities, valued at R400 million dating back to 2016.
Gumede is accused of using her political status to influence the appointment of senior eThekwini personnel responsible for supply chain management, as well as legal matters and human resources.
She is also accused of giving instructions to the bid specification committee (BSC), bid adjudication committee (BAC) and the bid evaluation committee (BEC), despite the fact that mayors are not allowed to be involved in tender specification processes.