FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: Obstinate Gumede is hindering the ANC's renewal efforts
If President Cyril Ramaphosa had plans for a post elections honeymoon, he must cancel it forthwith. His own comrades have made sure that he does not get to go on a quiet retreat to ponder what he will do with the trust South Africans have given him.
For one thing, the New Dawn narrative is already being undermined in his own party. If it is not his fellow top six leaders creating confusion among members and the public over whether there was indeed research showing the party was saved by the Ramaphosa factor, it is the insistence by some to carry on as if it is business as usual.
Zandile Gumede - the eThekwini municipality mayor accused of corruption, money laundering and racketeering - is carrying on with her duties as though nothing has happened.
As it often happens in South African politics, particularly in the ANC where criminal accusations have been known to be thrown around merrily to derail an opponent, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Gumede has been framed, as she argues. Still, it is not a good enough reason to stay in her office.
The issues are beyond her party’s internal dynamics. They speak to whether the electorate and investors can place any value on the much-heralded new dawn and renewal of the ANC.
The problem here is when those who lead governments do not see themselves as bound by the rule of law to act morally – even if their actions are not necessarily legally prescribed.
A government finds its legitimacy from being both legally installed and being seen as credible by those it governs. You cannot have one and not the other. That is why even popular uprisings overthrowing bad leaders must take steps to call for elections as soon as possible.
For Gumede to argue that these are just “mere allegations” against her misses the point altogether. It is worse because this thinking pretends not to recognise the issues for what they are.
These are not “mere allegations”. They are criminal charges for which she has paid R50 000 bail for. Gumede is accused of fraud and corruption relating to a 2016 R208 million solid waste tender for her municipality. The Hawks allege that service providers were paid huge amounts of money without providing any services.
This means that she is accused of using the office she continues to occupy to enrich herself and/or others. It cannot be more serious. Even if a conviction carried a sentence of one day in prison, the allegations would still be serious enough because of the office she holds.
But Gumede will not go because she is convinced that the ANC is happy with her explanation that there was nothing untoward – as if the ANC is a court of law.
“I’m so fortunate that I’m one of the leaders of this glorious movement of which everything is done through protocol. Today we had a good meeting with officials and they want to understand what happened,” she told eNCA on Sunday.
So, if Gumede has the best interests of the “glorious movement” at heart, she can do no better than take a holiday and preserve the dignity of the office of the mayor, and perhaps send a message that her party is indeed serious about renewing itself.
Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.