ANC KZN stalled taking action against mayor Zandile Gumede due to 'other obligations'
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has admitted that it took a long time to act against embattled eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede over her arrest in connection with a R208m waste removal tender scandal.
KZN ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli told a media briefing in Durban on Tuesday that criticism over the ruling party's delay in taking action against Gumede was not entirely unfair.
But Ntuli attributed the ANC's delayed action against Gumede - who was also ANC regional chair - to the fact that the party was preoccupied with putting together the new executive of the provincial government.
"I don't think that the criticism is entirely unfair that probably we have delayed to go out and say anything about the matters of eThekwini. It has taken us a week or two or three or so after the mayor was arrested. But at a time when this occurred, we were seized with the process of putting together the executive in the provincial government," said Ntuli.
He also ascribed the delay to the fact at the time of Gumede's arrest the ANC provincial leadership had to attend the party's two national executive committee meetings in Cape Town and Gauteng.
"Clearly there was not sufficient time for the leadership of the province to properly and seriously immerse itself in dealing with the matter of eThekwini, except that when the mayor was arrested we called her to a meeting and said 'how do you explain this? What's happening?'" he said.
He said Gumede had asked for some time to prepare a report and the ANC had to wait for feedback before it could communicate its decision on the allegations she was facing.
Gumede was forced to take a 30-day leave of absence only at the weekend during the ANC provincial executive committee's (PEC's) first two-day lekgotla after the May elections held at Empangeni in northern KZN.
During the lekgotla, the ANC also took a decision to dissolve the eThekwini regional executive committee, which was chaired by Gumede - but there was speculation she might make a political comeback when ANC provincial chair Sihle Zikalala was set to announce new members of the regional task team later on Tuesday.
Ntuli said ANC deputy regional secretary and eThekwini councillor Mondli Mthembu, who was arrested along with Gumede over the solid waste tender fraud, and Newcastle mayor Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba, who is out on bail for the alleged murder of ANC Youth League official Wandile Ngobeni, were also required to step aside for 30 days.
Mahlaba wrote to the ANC informing the party he was willing to take the 30-day leave of absence with effect from May 26, said Ntuli. However, Mahlaba has since refused to do so — to the chagrin of the ANC provincial leadership which has decided to dispatch the party's provincial working committee (PWC) to Newcastle at the weekend to engage with him.
Gumede, whose special leave was expected to come into immediate effect on Monday, has also made it clear that she did not voluntarily step aside from her position because doing so would be an admission of guilt and her lawyers had advised her against doing so.
Ntuli said any act of defiance by members of the ANC would have to be accounted for before the PWC "because when the leadership of the ANC is moving in a certain direction and take decisions we who are members of the ANC who joined the ANC voluntarily have an obligation to abide by the decisions".
"If there are deviations, the elected leadership will have to deal with those deviations. The expectation of the ANC is that whenever a comrade is arrested besides the charges that are imposed on them, there is usually a cloud that engulfs the area of work that they are deployed to do which manifests itself in many ways."
These, said Ntuli, included conspiracy theories about their arrest and propagation of information "that seeks to suggest that their arrest is a consequence of internal challenges within the ANC".
"Now the PEC said these comrades will have to step aside and during that period of 30 days, let's respond to some of these things that seem to be accompanying the concerns relating to their arrests because you can't undertake that exercise over a day or a week, especially for an organisation that is not only dealing with matters that are facing comrades who have been arrested," said Ntuli.