It’s a smear campaign, says embattled Durban mayor
WhatsApp messages linking members of a disruptive business forum and city officials have dealt another blow to her image
The eThekwini municipality has rubbished the authenticity of a series of WhatsApp messages allegedly involving the mayor discussing ways to remove the city manager.
The messages, which have gone viral, purport to be between embattled Durban mayor Zandile Gumede and some members of the controversial Delangokubona Business Forum in which they chat about ways to remove city manager Sipho Nzuza.
Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said on Thursday the city could not comment on faceless WhatsApp messages that did not even bear the cellphone numbers of those alleged to have been chatting.
“Its authenticity is very questionable and we are appealing to anyone who may have more evidence in this regard to give it to the city and law enforcement agencies to conduct an investigation. As it is to us, it is non-existent and we are appealing to everyone not to take an advantage of the challenges that the city is facing currently and spread disinformation that could result to an unnecessary rift between the city’s officials and political leadership,” said Mayisela.
The WhatsApp messages circulated on social media two days after Gumede appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday where she was charged with contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act in relation to the R208m Durban Solid Waste tender awarded in 2017.
According to the charge sheet, seen by Times Select, Gumede, together with eThekwini councillor Mondli Mthembu, during December 2017, they “unlawfully or wilfully deliberately influenced or attempted to influence the accounting officer, the chief financial officer, a senior manager or any other official of the municipality contravene provisions of this act or refrain from complying with its requirement”.
Gumede and Mthembu allegedly contravened the act by influencing the officials from the cleaning and solid waste unit and supply chain management which resulted in “an unlawful procurement process for refuse collection; street cleaning and illegal dumping for various townships” in Durban.
However, despite the serious charges against her, Gumede, who was released on R50,000 bail, has vowed not to stand down as mayor of the only metro in KwaZulu-Natal as “these are mere allegations”.
An ally of former president Jacob Zuma, Gumede is also the chairperson of the ANC’s eThekwini region, the party’s biggest and most influential region.
In the WhatsApp messages, the sender asks whether Mama [the popular way Gumede is referred to as mayor ] is okay and Mama responds that how can she be okay when things are like this.
She continues: “Naba besathule labantu bakho, bengithi ngizozwa uma kukhona umnyakazo osuwenzekile kanti kubambeni? [Your people are still quiet, I was hoping that I would have heard if there was some kind of action. What is holding things? ]
The second party in the conversation responds that the matter had been discussed and he [an apparent reference to Nzuza] would be called to a meeting next week so that he could explain when he intended resigning.
“Kufanele ehambile impela siningi isililo ngaye. Bheka nawe ngabe usuyitholile imali yokukhankasa nokulungisa izinto nje.” [He has to go there are many people who are complaining about him. Look you would also have received money to campaign and to fix other things],” reads one of the exchanges.
Gumede’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Gumede, said the WhatsApp messages were from “people who want exploit the situation and destabilise the city using all sorts of things including fake news”.
“People must calm down. It’s like a festival and everyone wants to perform. People should calm down and desist from any form of wrongful tendencies, whether in support or against,” he said.
After being granted bail on Tuesday, Gumede was back at work on Wednesday and joined a function to unpack the city’s readiness to host the 19th edition of the Cosafa Cup, which is being hosted by the SA Football Association in Durban between May 25 and June 8.
Nzuza couldn’t be reached for comment.