Gumede’s axing is not a moment too soon

eThekwini Metro Mayor Zandile Gumede has left a trail of destruction in her wake. Gumede’s scorecard as mayor and leader of the only metro in KwaZulu-Natal is dismal.

“There is little doubt that the former mayor has left a legacy of defective services, wastage, poor management and aberrant leadership. The city’s own monthly and quarterly reports, numerous media articles and even a provincial report have pointed to this fact for nearly the entire duration of her tenure,” says Tim Tyrrell, OUTA KZN Provincial Manager.

OUTA has argued for the removal of Gumede and her co-accused, chairperson for the human settlements infrastructure committee Mondli Mthembu, since their arrest on 14 May 2019 in relation to various charges including fraud and corruption in connection with tender irregularities to the value of R208-million. Mthembu was removed along with all the ANC members of the City’s executive committee, of which he too was a member.

“While we must acknowledge that the KwaZulu-Natal ANC has taken a step in the right direction, it must be said that this action should have occurred much earlier. It is hoped that the delay is not the result of a settlement agreement being reached where they will be redeployed and continue to be paid from the public purse, an action we will oppose,” says Tyrrell.

On 15 May 2019 OUTA wrote to the ANC KZN Provincial Secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, requesting that the party recall Gumede based on its own resolution passed in March 2019 that said: “All comrades charged with serious crimes to step aside from their positions of responsibility in government, pending the conclusion of their legal cases.”

OUTA also wrote repeatedly to the council, which is obliged to hold councillors to account in terms of the Municipal Systems Act.

However, on more than one occasion Speaker William Mapena advised OUTA in writing that his office was “not in possession of any information upon which a reasonable suspicion can be formed that there has been a breach of the Code of Conduct for Councillors” by Gumede and Mthembu.

“Had the ANC not taken the decision to remove Gumede and Mthembu, we were to begin discussions with our in-house legal counsel and discuss how we could force the municipality to undertake its legislative duty as set out in the Municipal Systems Act. We further welcome the removal of Speaker Mapena and several members of the executive council by the ANC who have consistently refused to stand up for the residents of this City,” says Tyrrell.

OUTA notes the dismissals are based not only on the criminal allegations but on the findings of a report jointly compiled in June 2019 by the province’s Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and Treasury Department titled “State of Local Governance Report: eThekwini Metro”. OUTA has seen this report.

“This report provides damning evidence against the city leadership under Gumede’s watch, noting political infighting, political interference in the administration, fraud and corruption and a lack of financial oversight and poor project management, all leading to failures in service delivery. The report stated that the increased negative media coverage had the potential to create negative economic consequences through credit ratings downgrades. Based on this report alone Gumede and those who surrounded her should never again be allowed to hold public office,” says Tyrrell.

Julius Kleynhans, OUTA’s Operations Executive, says the action taken by the KZN ANC urgently needs to be replicated throughout the various dysfunctional municipalities it controls across the country.

“Only 7% of municipalities in South Africa are fully functional. Of the remaining 93%, only 31% are ‘reasonably functional’, with 31% ‘almost dysfunctional’ and another 31% ‘completely dysfunctional’. There is no time to wait. Urgent intervention is needed now otherwise we face the very real possibility of a collapse of the local government system which will be catastrophic for everyone,” says Kleynhans.

OUTA further notes the complete overhaul of the ANC leadership in Msunduzi Municipality.

Tyrrell says OUTA calls on the ANC to deploy competent office bearers with the requisite skills and competencies to manage and run a large, economically diverse municipality that sits on a key corridor between Gauteng and the Port of Durban. The municipality is currently under administration.

“There is no doubt that the problems faced by Msunduzi Municipality are multi-faceted and run deep throughout the organisational structure. However, a change in political leadership is a strong message implying there is a will to turn the city’s fortunes around. For too long Msunduzi has been ripped apart by factional politics and rampant corruption. It is hoped the new leadership will put the city and its residents first,” says Tyrrell.

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