Durban – THE future of eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede rests with the ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC) following her arrest on allegations of fraud and corruption.
She appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Durban on Tuesday. The matter was postponed until August.
On Monday, the top five members of the PEC will convene for its regular weekly meeting where Gumede’s future is on the agenda.
Those who are expected to attend are chairperson Sihle Zikalala, deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu, secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli, deputy secretary Sipho Hlomuka and treasurer Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
Several sources independent of each other said a date would be set for a special sitting of the full PEC, which is made up of 35 members. They include various regions, the ANC Youth League and the ANC Women’s League.
It is believed the decision of the PEC will be sent to the party’s national executive committee.
Ntuli said at some point this weekend the top five expected to meet Gumede to seek clarity.
“We want to get a sense of the case as we don’t know much about it except what we have heard through the media,” he said.
When contacted for comment, Gumede said: “Right now I cannot comment. Once the time is right, I will call you and comment.”
Gumede’s arrest has deepened divisions within the ruling party.
“There are those who are with Mama and those who are against her.
“Therefore, it is up to the PEC to decide on the matter,” said a source.
The PEC will also have to grapple with who to appoint as mayor should Gumede step down or take leave.
The most likely candidate is Fawzia Peer, the deputy mayor.
However, two years ago when Gumede made a trip to America for a global conference on climate change, Peer was snubbed as her stand-in.
Instead, Mondli Mthembu, a member of Exco, was appointed.
Mthembu is one of the 12 people who have been charged with Gumede.
At the time, Mthembu’s appointment was widely criticised.
The official opposition party in the city council, the DA labelled the appointment “unlawful”.
Even James Nxumalo, the former eThekwini mayor, found the appointment “strange”.
“Normally, when the mayor is away for a long time the deputy takes over the reins because they complement each other, and that’s why you have them both in the mayor’s parlour,” he said at the time.
But Peer’s fortunes could be changing since she has the support of the influential ANCYL.
“If the ANC deploys Fawzia Peer, the youth league would support her because she is a leader with credibility,” said ANCYL regional secretary Thinta Cibane.
Cibane said Peer, who has been in the city council in various capacities since democracy, had what it took to bring stability to the city.
He said the numerous service delivery protests as well as the labour protests that rocked the city on the eve of the national elections were indicative of Gumede’s poor leadership.
“Workers in the municipality are not happy and the community feels that their concerns are not being addressed.
“We don’t support individuals in the ANC, and if you don’t deliver you must leave,” he said.
Cibane said under Gumede, eThekwini, which is the ANC’s biggest region countrywide, had been weakened.
The ANC lost 180 000 votes in eThekwini in the elections, IEC data showed.
The ANC Womens League in eThekwini defended Gumede.
“It is uncalled for to call for the mayor to step down as she has not been found guilty of corruption. There is Newcastle mayor (Ntuthuko Mahlaba) and other senior ANC leaders who are facing serious charges but there is no call for them to step down. Inside the ANC, women are being undermined, and we cannot take that lightly,” said Zama Sokhabase, the ANC Womens League’s eThekwini regional secretary.
Sokhabase alleged there was a political plot against Gumede to prevent her from contesting the upcoming regional conference.
Bheki Mngomezulu, a political analyst, said the ANC should not recall Gumede but suspend her pending the outcome of the case.
He said since Peer was deputy mayor, she should act while Gumede was suspended.
“That she was appointed the deputy means that they felt that she has what it takes,” he said.
Another analyst, Imraan Buccus, said it would be “in the best interest” of the city council for Gumede to step down “while the legal processes unfold”.
“Her removal would be the kind of ethical leadership we expect from this new dawn the president has been talking about,” he said, adding it was up to the ANC to act on the position.