'They crucified me in Women's Month' - axed eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede says she 'won't take it lying down'
Ousted eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede has told News24 that she wants the ANC's top body to explain to her why she has been removed as the political head of the municipality.
In an interview with News24 on Wednesday, Gumede said she would be writing to the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) to find out how she had been branded incompetent.
"It's important that I do that. All what I wish to know is the process. They [NEC] must say why they call me incompetent. I'm a leader internationally. I have accolades, they must prove how and why," she said.
Shortly after, Gumede's spokesperson Mthunzi Gumede told News24 that she had not decided on the steps to take to clear her name. The former mayor's spokesperson said Gumede would be taking advice and looking at various avenues to clear her name.
Gumede was suspended and subsequently fired from her position following a two-day special meeting of the ANC's provincial executive committee (PEC), which enacted the recommendations of the provincial working committee (PWC) that she be recalled.
Provincial ANC secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said the PWC, which compiled a report on local governance in the province, had raised complaints from residents about issues such as water provisions, water infrastructure, refuse removal, and allegations of fraud and corruption.
Gumede was placed on special leave in June, after she was arrested on charges of fraud and corruption related to a Durban Solid Waste tender in the metro.
Ntuli, however, said the decision to axe her, as well as the entire executive leadership in the eThekwini and Msunduzi municipalities, was not about the pending court matters, but about service delivery.
Gumede told News24: "I'm being shut down not to do my oversight. I'm not going to allow that. I'm not going to be taking that lying down. I'll be using real instruments of my organisation. You can't suppress me because I'm a women. Enough is enough."
'Everyone must be subjected to proper processes'
She contends that, during her tenure as eThekwini mayor, council had run smoothly. She also questioned the PWC's report on her fitness, saying that it did not coincide with reports by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), which had said "nothing about me being corrupt".
While in the province last week, however, Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma noted the Auditor-General's report which found that reasonable steps were not taken to prevent irregular expenditure of R731m in the metros last financial year. She added that the majority of the irregular expenditure was a result of non-compliance with supply chain regulations.
During the interview with News24, Gumede maintained her innocence, claiming she was being persecuted by her party because she was a woman. She said her male counterparts, who had court processes pending against them, had remained in their positions.
"I still maintain that the ANC must wait for the case to go on and my name needs to be cleared. Redeployment is done at times in the ANC because ANC does not owe you anything but, on this one, it goes with my dignity and history. I'm standing for women of South Africa, black and white. Our power cannot be cut down like a tree. It can't be right that my organisation cannot follow proper protocol. Everyone must be subjected to proper processes."
Her complaint of patriarchy in the organisation was echoed by ANC Women's League president Bathabile Dlamini on Tuesday night during a dialogue with the president Cyril Ramaphosa. Dlamini lashed out at the party over a culture of "removing women from positions of power".
'This was an orchestrated attack on my character'
News24 understands Dlamini will meet with Ntuli this week to discuss the merits of Gumede's removal.
Gumede added that she believed she was being targeted by some in the party's KwaZulu-Natal top brass because she was an advocate of "radical economic transformation (RET)".
"There are some who did not want to implement the RET framework. They pursue me and make sure to say she is corrupt. They frustrate me because I was pushing this programme. In the metro, we said business must advertise because people of eThekwini must get what they wanted."
Gumede, who some say has lost favour within the province, insisted she had the backing of the eThekwini council.
"My councillors, 85% are clear in their programme. They are saying, if Ma goes what will happen? They arrested me on my birthday and they crucified me in Women's Month. This was an orchestrated attack on my character."
The party heavyweight, who until two months ago was the chair of the eThekwini region, the ANC's biggest region in the country, rubbished claims that she was targeted because of her close proximity to former president Jacob Zuma.
"There is President Ramaphosa now. I respect former leaders. I entered during his time, however, I'm no Zuma ally," she said.
*This story has been updated to include comment from Gumede's spokesperson.
- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter