A picture of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane posing with embattled eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede is being distributed on WhatsApp by "mischievous" people trying to give the impression they were hanging out, Mkhwebane's office says.
In the picture, Mkhwebane is seen posing with Gumede who is wearing a jacket over a Kaizer Chiefs T-shirt. The duo is smiling for the camera.
Concerns have arisen as to why Mkhwebane would be posing with a mayor who is facing fraud charges.
However, Mkhwebane's office has clarified that the picture was taken at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban on Saturday after the Nedbank Cup Final football match, which Mkhwebane attended.
"People regularly approach the Public Protector for pictures whenever she makes public appearances.
"There too she was approached by people, who were in the company of the Mayor of eThekwini for a picture and she agreed to pose with them," acting Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told News24 on Tuesday.
Segalwe said the picture was taken as Mkhwebane was leaving the hospitality suite at the stadium.
He provided News24 with an un-cropped version of the image where two other ladies are seen posing on either side of the public protector and the mayor.
"We have noted that some mischievous people have edited the picture by cropping out the other people who were on the picture to create an impression that the Public Protector hung out with the Mayor when that is not the case," said Segalwe.
After handing herself over to the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal, Gumede appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court last Tuesday on corruption-related charges linked to a R208m tender with the Durban solid waste department.
She appeared with councillor Mondli Mthembi, who is the chairperson of the human settlements and infrastructure committee in the province.
The duo was released on R50 000 bail and are due to appear again in court on August 8, News24 reported.
Gumede has since been called on to step down following her appearance in court.