South Africa: Corruption-Accused Zandile Gumede and DA in War of Words Over Her SONA Attendance

17 February 2020

Embattled former eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede has hit out at the DA for its criticism of her State of the Nation Address (SONA) attendance last week.

In an emotive statement issued on Monday, Gumede lashed out at DA caucus leader in the metro, Nicole Graham, who has been a vocal critic of the former mayor.

Graham criticised Gumede's presence at the SONA, saying she flew into Cape Town, "comfortably seated in business class".

"Who paid for this? Her place card at SONA indicated that she was representing Salga, the South African Local Government Association, which is a public entity that accounts to Parliament."

Graham's comments came after Gumede was released on R50 000 bail in a Durban Solid Waste tender fraud and corruption case, involving R389m.

"She attended the Salga national executive committee meeting on Wednesday in Durban, indicating that she remains very much involved in its business."

'Ignorant about local government'

But, Gumede responded that she expected Graham "to know that I am still the deputy president of Salga and have always been a part of the SONA delegation".

"It is not surprising that she is ignorant about local government and yet she leads a mob of councillors with such spurious utterances."

She also claimed Graham's statement was envious, adding that she should rather focus on the controversy related to apartheid president FW de Klerk. De Klerk has come under fire for his comments that apartheid was not necessarily a crime against humanity.

"[It] was just another art of shifting focus from a pertinent discussion about the presence of the last apartheid President FW de Klerk who denies that he was presiding over a crime against humanity."

She added: "Ms Graham who has found me guilty in her kangaroo court, saw it fit that we should focus on my travel logistics when there's a glaring issue of the last surviving apartheid president spitting on the grave of many innocent lives that were lost under his command."

She claimed Graham was protective of males in leadership positions.

"She has no regard for women leaders and is willing to tear apart her Durban caucus in support of another male [interim leader] John Steenhuisen against [leader candidate] Mbali Ntuli. In fact, she has turned a blind eye on her opposition male wrongdoings."

Responding, Graham told News24: "It is quite a ridiculous thing to say. We operate on a party system where we evaluate people based on their strengths and weaknesses in that particular time."

Graham confirmed Steenhuisen was her choice of DA leader candidate and said party members were free to choose who they believed were fit for the position.

"It (Gumede's statement) is a desperate attempt to detract from what she's doing," Graham said.

Turning to the corruption case, Gumede said the Hawks were delaying the matter. She is accused of using her political influence in procurement processes.

"The further delay by Hawks on their investigation harms my political standing in society and creates an opportunity for the likes of Graham to drag my name in the mud for her to get famous. What was the rationale of the Hawks on arresting and charging me without completing an investigation?"

"Until today, I have not received formal court charges, hence the rule of innocent 'till proven guilty must apply to me as well," Gumede said.

Source: News24

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