Justice, not politricks, must prevail

eThekwini's beleaguered mayor Zandile Gumede.
eThekwini's beleaguered mayor Zandile Gumede.
Image: Supplied

She cut a figure of sadness, all alone in a prison cell as she awaited her immediate fate, bail or a night behind bars.

Here she was, Zandile Gumede, who, as the executive mayor of eThekwini metropolitan municipality, is one of the most powerful political figures in KwaZulu-Natal if not on the entire South African landscape.

She was arrested on criminal charges linked to alleged tender fraud involving a R208m contract awarded by the metro.

The mayor, fellow ANC councillor Mondli Mthembu and service provider Craig Ponna, appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday after they turned themselves in to the Hawks.

Seated on the cement bunker in a corner of the prison cell, Gumede's was a picture that told the proverbial thousand words of how the mighty have fallen.

The message laden there cannot be mistaken and must have been unequivocal - especially to those in power - that indeed they are not above the law.

The noises that came after Gumede and her fellow travellers' arraignment were quite predictable.

Her allies were all too quick to declare her "innocent until proven guilty", while her nemesis were not about to let an opportunity to sink their teeth into her go unexploited - calling for her resignation.

It was the typical political shenanigans many dismiss as politricks, often played when politicians have some self-inflicted legal comeuppance.

But it's a game which if not watched can lead to muddying of the waters as was seen in the Jacob Zuma saga in which politics were allowed - by design or otherwise - to interfere with a purely criminal case that should have long been settled on its merits or demerits.

The corruption of the political office has been the saddest saga of the post-apartheid dispensation, with estimates of the looting of the public purse running into trillions of rand.

What has been lacking, and indeed disappointing, is a concomitant dispensation of accountability and justice for those caught with their fingers in the cookie jar.

It is almost unheard of in SA today that someone as powerful - real or imagined - as Gumede is seen facing the full might of the law. Long may it last.

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