eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and councillor Mondli Mthembu are alleged to have orchestrated a march to Durban City Hall last month that called for the removal of the city manager because he would not sign off on a payment for an illegal tender.
The allegation was made at the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday where Gumede and Mthembu were appearing on graft charges.
According to the affidavit of lead Hawks' investigator Ngoako Mphaki, which senior state advocate Ashika Lucken read into the record:
“In April 2019, information was received that mayor Gumede incited a march to the [Durban] city hall to request the removal of [city manager Sipho Nzuza] from office on the grounds that he refused to take orders from the mayor to make the irregular payments.
“On 16 April, at about 2pm, a large group of people gathered outside city hall protesting and demanding the removal of the city manager. Information is at hand that mayor Gumede and councillor Mthembu orchestrated these events,” said Mphaki’s affidavit.
Gumede handed herself over to police the morning before appearing in court alongside Mthembu and service provider Craig Ponnan. The trio was released on R50 000 bail each.
Gumede is also the chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) eThekwini region – the biggest in the country. Mthembu is its deputy secretary.
They are part of a group - the others were arrested two weeks ago - that are alleged to have conspired to swindle the city out of R45-million through the illegal awarding of a Durban Solid Waste (DSW) contract.
The other accused include Robert Abbu - DSW’s deputy head for strategic and new developments, and the city’s supply chain manager and chairperson of the bid adjudication committee, Sandile Ngcobo.
The accused are all facing multiple charges of fraud and corruption as well as contravention of several acts such as the Municipal Financial Management Act, Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, Organised Crime Act and the Riotous Assemblies Act.
According to Mphaki’s affidavit, DSW appointed service providers to carry out refuse removal for the city for three years. The contract would expire around 2016. The process to find new contractors started about a year before the expiry.
Abbu “deliberately delayed initiating the procurement process to appoint suppliers for a new term. He used the delay to misrepresent the fact that there was an emergency [which falls under the controversial section 36, and allows diversion from normal processes] and that the formal public procurement processes of eThekwini could not be followed in the appointment of suppliers for the new term,” according to the affidavit.
Abbu allegedly “usurped” the authority of his line manager and took control of authorising the requisition stage of the process to appoint suppliers for the new contract.
According to the affidavit, Abbu then limited the number of quotations to four suppliers - Ilanga La Hahlase Projects Pty Ltd (Hlenga Sibisi), Uzuzinekele Trading 31 CC (Sithulele Mkhize), Omphile Thabang Projects (Pius Dlomo) and El Shaddai Holdings Group CC (Sinthamone Ponnan).
Abbu had divided the work that was previously being done by 27 suppliers between the four suppliers, none of which were registered on the city’s supplier database when they were invited to quote.
The suppliers also did not have the resources or expertise to provide the services, including premises, staff, trucks and other infrastructure.
“Abbu also amended the scope of the original tender to include a line item in respect of the illegal dumping with no limit to the amount that the four suppliers could claim from eThekwini. The annual budget for illegal dumping was R5-million.
“Abbu facilitated that the four suppliers be awarded the contract for refuse collection for three months at a cost of R45-million with an unlimited budget for illegal dumping.
“The four suppliers used the illegal dumping with no threshold to bill the municipality for more than R130-million within six months,” according to Mphaki’s affidavit.
Ngcobo assisted Abbu in the processing, appointment and awarding of the contract to the four suppliers by co-signing the requisition documents.
The documents contained “misrepresentations” that “induced the readers of the requisitions to act to the prejudice of eThekwini in approving the appointment of the four suppliers", said the affidavit.
Ngcobo also made representations to the accounting officer and city manager Nzuza “inducing him” to sign the approval of the appointment of the four service providers.
Besides her role in orchestrating the protest against Nzuza, Gumede was also cited for “political interference”.
She is accused of not making available evidence to eThekwini’s City Integrity and Investigations Unit. Much of the state’s evidence against the accused came from the unit.
Gumede and Mthembu are further accused of instructing members of the city’s Bid Specification Committee, Bid Evaluation Committee and Bid Adjudication Committee “on which companies to award tenders to while sitting in these committees”.
Gumede, Mthembu and Poonan will appear again on August 8 with the other accused.
Investigations into other acts of corruption at the city are continuing, according to the Hawks.