DISGRACED former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede has been sworn in as MPL in the KwaZulu Natal legislature.
Gumede was forced to step down from the mayorship in light of criminal charges for fraud and corruption, which she still faces.
She now replaces the late MPL Ricardo Mthembu, who passed away from COVID-19 in June.
Her appointment comes after the corruption case against her and several co-accused was postponed to September.
Gumede is expected back in court next month.
She has appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on charges linked to tender irregularities, valued at R400 million dating back to 2016.
Gumede is accused of using her political status to influence the appointment of senior eThekwini personnel responsible for supply chain management, as well as legal matters and human resources.
She is also accused of giving instructions to the bid specification committee (BSC), bid adjudication committee (BAC) and the bid evaluation committee (BEC), despite the fact that mayors are not allowed to be involved in tender specification processes.
Nhlakanipho Ntombela, ANC KZN spokesperson confirmed to Inside Politics that Gumede had taken a new role.
“The provincial executive committee took a decision to deploy her to the legislature. She is one of our senior members and a highly experienced individual in local government. So we believe as the party she will be able to carry her new responsibilities with distinction,” said Ntombela.
Gumede replaces former ANC provincial spokesperson Ricardo Mthembu who passed away two months ago because of COVID-19 related complications.
Last year, Gumede was forced out of his position by his party, suspecting her of being a central figure in service delivery challenges crippling the metro. She was recalled together with her entire executive including former speaker William Mapena.
Her woes did not end there, Gumede was subsequently arrested by the Hawks and faced a string of fraud and corruption charges relating to her role in participating in the corruption – ridden multi million rand Durban Solid Waste tender.
The charges dated back to 2016 when she assumed mayoral office.
Gumede is accused jointly with senior municipal staff and ANC councillors including municipal manager Sipho Nzuza.
She is currently out on bail of R50 000 and is due back in court next month.
Prior being sworn in as MPL, she had been reduced to a low key councillor at the metro.
Gumede has however disputed the allegations against her on grounds that it was a mere political conspiracy.
The Democratic Alliance in the province described the decision to elevate Gumede a travesty of justice.
“The Democratic Alliance is disgusted by the ANC's move to elect Zandile Gumede to a cushy seat in the KZN Legislature. It is obvious that the former mayor is a powerful figure in the ANC who had protection in high places. Why else would she earn promotion back to the Legislature when her absolute disgraceful behaviour is so clear for all to see,”? asked Nicole Graham, DA eThekwini metro caucus leader.
In her new role, Gumede will chair the legislature’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs responsible for providing oversight to the province’s ailing municipalities.
Xolani Dube, KwaZulu-Natal based political analyst and senior researcher at Xubera Research Institute and Development said the move was unsurprising.
“The ANC has made it a norm to reward their members who are facing public scrutiny and who are involved in wayward behaviour. And Gumede seems to wield a strong influence in the provincial politics,” he said.
(COMPILED BY INSIDE POLITICS STAFF)