DURBAN, May 18 – The KwaZulu-Natal division of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) said on Friday that it saluted the courage of whistle-blowers at eThekwini Metro whose speaking out led to criminal charges being laid against mayor Zandile Gumede.
The civil society group also said it would be pursuing further channels to “help persuade” eThekwini councillors to “take a position” on Gumede.
“OUTA’s KZN division recognises the extraordinary courage it took for whistle-blowers within the eThekwini Metro to come forward, [which] has ultimately led to criminal charges being laid against Mayor Zandile Gumede,” said OUTA KZN provincial manager, Tim Tyrrell.
Tyrell said there was now a “moral imperative” facing the metro’s elected councillors, who needed to take a stand on Gumede’s leadership.
OUTA earlier this week called on Gumede to step down pending the finalisation of charges she is facing at the Durban Commercial Crimes Court.
The organisation also asked the African National Congress (ANC) provincial leadership to implement a resolution taken at a meeting on March 26 during which it was decided that senior party leaders should step down if they were facing serious criminal charges.
Gumede, senior ANC councillor Mondli Mthembu and businessman Craig Poonan handed themselves over to police on Tuesday morning and were charged for their alleged roles in tender fraud relating to a R208 million Durban Solid Waste (DSW) contract. The alleged crimes took place in 2016.
Several other suspects – including two senior eThekwini officials – were arrested two weeks ago for their alleged roles in the same racket. The accused have all been released on bail and are set to appear again together in August.
During Gumede’s appearance, the magistrate was told by state prosecutor Ashika Lucken that various witnesses were likely known to Gumede and worked within the municipality. The mayor’s arrest was expedited to protect the witnesses from intimidation, said Lucken.
According to Tyrrell: “We cannot underscore enough the importance of the bravery of these witnesses. Such acts of selflessness benefit the city residents, and for that we join all law-abiding residents in saluting you.”
A full council meeting is expected to sit on May 30, and Tyrrell said he hoped the metro’s officials would use the opportunity to “take a position” regarding Gumede’s place within the institution.
“One such option is the Local Government Municipal Structures Act, which allows for a motion to be put before council to vote for the removal of the Mayor.
“We call on the elected officials to recognise the courage of those within its own ranks who have put the people first and uncovered what appears to be nearly a quarter of a billion rand tender racket. With this in mind we urge the councillors to take a stand against corruption and be a part of the ‘New Dawn’”, said Tyrrell. (ANA)