eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede’s political stronghold unsurprisingly came to her defence on Wednesday, a day after her first court appearance on corruption related charges.

The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) in eThekwini defended the embattled mayor, calling for her to be allowed to “continue to serve the people of the city in her Council position”.

The league claimed the case against her was a ploy to remove her because she was a female leader.

“The calls for mayor to step down by opposition parties and some factions is part of the campaign to replace her as the female Mayor and Regional chairwoman (sic). This is all linked to the upcoming regional conference,” said ANCWL regional secretary Zama Sokhabase in a statement.

Sokhabase said Gumede had been subjected to “extreme attack” since her rise to office as the first woman mayor in the eThekwini metro.

“Her name has been dragged through the mud by opposition including some of her comrades. This latest move is aimed at hanging a dark cloud over her head so that ANC branches and community may lose faith in her.”

She also called Gumede’s arrest “premature and possibly politically motivated”.

Gangster politicians and mafias

Sbu Zikode, leader of the shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, welcomed the arrest, saying they were “not surprised”.

“The corruption in Durban had become so brazen, and supported with such brazen thuggery, that eventually the state had to act. Like many gangster politicians when her arrest finally came it was hidden from the public and the media.”

He said Gumede was given special treatment because she entered the court building using “the back door to enter the court to escape media attention”.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) spokesperson Tim Tyrell on Wednesday suggested the ANC step in and ask for Gumede’s removal from office.

He said this would be in line with discussions at the special meeting of the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) held on March 26.

“The resolutions taken by the ANC at the special meeting clearly states that [it] would remove its elected leaders who are facing serious criminal charges. Mayor Zandile Gumede is facing serious charges of fraud, corruption, intimidation and breaking several laws.”

He said they felt that Gumede’s predicament fitted the ANC’s description of “someone facing serious crime”.

Tyrrell added that bail conditions imposed on Gumede prevent her from effectively doing her job.

Bail restrictions

The mayor was ordered to refrain from liaising with officials in several key departments including supply chain, human resources, legal, finance and Durban Solid Waste.

Magistrate Dawn Somaroo said investigations into Gumede had to be brought forward due to intimidation and threats.

Gumede appeared amid chaotic scenes outside the Durban Commercial Crime Court where her supporters raised bags and jackets to block her from being photographed.

The appearance followed her and councillor Mondli Mthembu’s arrest in connection with a multi-million rand waste removal tender. They had handed themselves over to police.

She was granted R50 000 bail, along with Mthembu, who is also the chairperson of the human settlements and infrastructure committee.

The case is expected to resume on August 8.

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