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Charges against eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede cloud her budget speech

ANC councillors came to Zandile Gumede’s defence, saying the mayor was innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

FILE: eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede on 29 May 2019. Picture: Nkosikona Duma/EWN.

DURBAN – Embattled eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede’s budget speech for the 2019-20 financial year was clouded by dramatic scenes as opposition councillors from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) called for the mayor not to deliver the speech given the charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering against her.

IFP eThekwini caucus chair councillor Prem Iyir said the speech had financial implications for the city and because of charges against Gumede linked to financial impropriety, she could not address the council.

African National Congress (ANC) councillors, however, came to her defence, saying Gumede was innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Eventually, council speaker William Mapena allowed Gumede to deliver her address, which focused on how the city planned to spend its R50.6 billion budget.

Gumede did not address calls for her to step down or her case, saying the matter was under judgment.

Gumede appeared confident and unfazed by jeering from opposition councillors as she delivered her speech.

“As always, it is opposition, what do you expect? But I just want to say the matter is sub judice and I cannot talk about it,” she said.

Part of the budget included provision for building houses for victims of the recent floods that displaced over 1,400 people in eThekwini, Gumede said. Many residents were yet to receive assistance for permanent shelter and some were still housed at temporary camps.

“Focusing more in our infrastructure because it is aging and we want to make sure that we deal with the issues of infrastructure, as you know, we are faced with the issue of climate change,” Gumede said.

Overall, electricity and water services, which were most affected by a recent municipal workers’ strike, got the biggest chunk of the budget. They were allocated R15.6 billion and R7.8 billion, respectively.

Gumede said the municipality expected its budget to increase to R51.1 billion by the 2021-22 financial year.

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)

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