Supporters gather for night vigil as Zandile Gumede heads to court
Suspended Durban mayor Zandile Gumede's supporters are expected to flock to the Durban magistrate's court for a night vigil on Wednesday, as they declare their unwavering support for the embattled leader.
The vigil comes as Gumede prepares to appear in Durban's commercial crime court on Thursday as part of a wide-ranging corruption case.
Gumede - out on R50,000 bail and facing charges of racketeering, corruption and money laundering - is set to appear alongside senior ANC councillor and eThekwini deputy speaker Mondli Mthembu.
The two, together with 61 other councillors, have been implicated in an allegedly dodgy R208m Durban Solid Waste tender, awarded in 2016.
The mayor has been accused of using her political position to influence the contract.
ANC branch leader Mzomuhle Dube, a staunch Gumede supporter, said her backers were expected to gather in front of the court in preparation for her appearance.
"The night vigil is being planned in front of the court and supporters will camp there until the morning. The municipality opposed our application to hold this night vigil. They don't want us anywhere near the city," he said, adding that there was "no law stopping people from gathering".
Since Gumede's removal from office, her supporters have staged numerous protests, often resulting in Durban's city centre being cast into a state of chaos and violence.
In June, the ANC's provincial executive committee (PEC) in KZN resolved that Gumede should step down for 30 days to allow the governing party time to finalise an internal investigation into the allegations against her.
In July, the party extended Gumede's leave of suspension as the probe into the matter was incomplete.
On Monday, ANC KZN secretary-general Mdumiseni Ntuli told the media that following a two-day deliberation, the party had resolved to once again extend Gumede's leave of suspension to allow the investigating team to include her response in its final report.
"The PEC is of the view when the matters are concluded, it must not be possible for anyone to say there was a travesty of justice, that certain comrades were not given an opportunity to give their submission or point of view," said Ntuli.
The PEC's decision also applied to Newcastle mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba, who is out on R20,000 bail after being arrested for the 2016 murder of ANC Youth League eMalahleni regional deputy chair Wandile Ngubeni in Newcastle.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has once again lashed out at the ruling party for failing to take decisive action against Gumede.
"It's completely ridiculous that it's taking the ANC this long to come to a decision regarding Gumede," said the DA's eThekwini caucus leader Nicole Graham.
Graham's frustration was fuelled by the fact that Gumede has been earning R115,000 a month while on special leave. "Gumede earns an annual salary of R1.35m," she said.
Graham told TimesLIVE that the DA was seeking legal advice to have a motion tabled to remove Gumede from the powerful, decision-making executive committee (exco).
"We are moving with our motion to remove Gumede from exco. We have consulted our legal team and hopefully that will proceed by the end of this month," she said.