The appointment of corruption-accused and 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, says the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).
Gumede, who served as eThekwini mayor between 2016 and 2019, has been included in forensic investigations by the Hawks relating to fraud, money laundering and corruption during her tenure, and personal involvement in alleged illegal tender awards, and fake employment creation.
OUTA said that 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 former mayor was arrested in May 2019 on charges of corruption and was removed from the position of City 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 noted that KZN ANC provincial executive council in March 2019 stated that “all comrades charged with serious crimes must step aside from their positions of responsibility in government, pending the conclusion of their legal cases”.
The lobby group’s project manager in KZN, Tim Tyrrell, said instead of Gumede facing the consequences for 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,” said Tyrrell.
Following Gumede’s removal as mayor she remained in the council as a proportional representation councillor. The former mayor has denied all charges and allegations against her.
OUTA said that 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”.
Project manager, Thabile Zuma, said: “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 judgement 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 called the deployment of high ranking politicians with unresolved allegations of corruption against them in South Africa’s legislatures is a systemic problem.
It said 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).
President Cyril Ramaphosa, has promised to punish corrupt officials within the ANC.
“We are going to change the culture in the public service, encouraging more openness and transparency, making it easier to report misuse of public funds and working more closely with civil society to combat corruption.
“We will not allow public funds hard-earned by loyal taxpayers or donations by patriotic companies and individuals and the international community to vanish down a black hole of corruption.
“Those found to have broken the law to enrich themselves through this crisis will not get to enjoy their spoils, regardless of who they are or with whom they may be connected,” the president said.
However, Bloomberg reported that his tenuous control of the ruling party was laid bare recently when its leaders rebuffed his proposal to investigate allegedly tainted state contracts for health equipment.
Ramaphosa called for a panel led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe to scrutinise deals secured by ANC officials, but was spurned at a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee, according to three people who attended the gathering and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Instead, they accepted secretary-general Ace Magashule’s suggestion that the ANC’s integrity commission handle the matter, the people said.
Not a single high-profile politician has been convicted in connection with the theft of more than R500 billion from the state during former president Jacob Zuma’s rule, and the ANC hasn’t expelled any members that were implicated, Bloomberg said.
And these allegations of officials abusing their positions have continued under Ramaphosa’s administration, it said.