Journalists were blocked from taking pictures of eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede outside the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday, shortly after she was granted R50 000 bail when appearing for a string of corruption-related charges.
The embattled mayor's supporters threatened journalists with violence after the proceedings adjourned, and they could be seen physically blocking the media from taking pictures of the mayor as she exited.
Supporters held up handbags and coats to shield Gumede, while the crowd started to push and shove amid the media malstrom.
Police then told the assembled media that, by order of the court, everyone needed to leave the premises, including the media.
Bail of R50 000, strict conditions
Earlier on Tuesday, Gumede was granted R50 000 bail after appearing on charges that include money laundering, corruption and racketeering.
Gumede and regional deputy secretary Mondli Mthembu handed themselves over to the police on Tuesday morning.
She has been accused of using her political position to influence a Durban Solid Waste (DSW) contract that had no ceiling on the amount of illegal dumping. There was a previous ceiling of R5-million.
Another official allegedly facilitated for four service providers to win the refuse collection contract for three months, valued at R45-million with an unlimited budget for illegal dumping.
In addition, she and Mthembu are accused of manipulating various legal and supply chain processes to ensure that the four service providers manipulated the tender system.
This was done by using the "Section 36" clause in municipal law that led to the contractors' appointment in an emergency. This act, according to police, was falsely used.
Among the conditions of her bail, the mayor can't:
- communicate with any officials directly or indirectly linked to the audit trail at DSW,
- communicate with all supply chain management, legal and financial employees in the metro,
- communicate with operations staff of the eThekwini metro administration,
- access any documents related to the investigation,
- leave South Africa, or KZN without police notice. She also has to hand over her passports to police and is not allowed to apply for new travel documents.
- change her residential address.
"Due to intimidation and threats, investigations had to be brought forward. These conditions are strict and any hint of these conditions directly or indirectly violated, you will be brought back to court to see if you violated conditions," Magistrate Dawn Somaroo told the accused.
"If they are found to have been violated, bail will be revoked and you will be in custody for the remainder of the matter."
The ANC in the eThekwini region said it had faith in the justice system and "hopes that this matter will be treated with respect and integrity it deserves".
"We subscribe to the principle of innocence until proven otherwise. We are a strong believer in the rule of law and the principles of natural justice. However, we know that the court of public opinion doesn't subscribe to these principles. We therefore urge everyone to respect the court as the only competent body to pronounce on its outcomes."
The Hawks said in a statement on Tuesday that three suspects would appear at the Durban Specialised Commercial Court on Tuesday as part the Hawks' National Clean Audit Task Team (NCATT) investigation at the Ethekwini municipality.
Not naming the mayor specifically, the Hawks said the three would face the same charges as nine other suspects who were arrested two weeks ago on allegations of fraud and corruption in relation to a 2016 R208-million DSW tender where service providers were allegedly paid huge amounts of money even though they did not render any service.