KZN premier-elect and ANC provincial chair Sihle Zikalala. Picture: THULI DLAMINI
KZN premier-elect and ANC provincial chair Sihle Zikalala. Picture: THULI DLAMINI

KwaZulu-Natal premier-elect Sihle Zikalala has distanced himself from an audio clip which purports that he knew in advance about the arrest of Ethekwini mayor Zandile Gumede.

In the audio clip — which is being circulated on social media — two men, one of them allegedly a Hawks investigator, claims to have phoned Zikalala requesting a meeting about Gumede’s arrest.

Zikalala is the ANC KwaZulu-Natal chair and has been nominated to be the provincial premier following last week’s elections. He is currently the MEC of economic development.

In a statement issued by his office on Wednesday, Zikalala rejected the audio clip as an attempt to create the impression that he knew about Gumede’s arrest.

“I take serious exception to anyone suggesting that I had any prior knowledge of any arrest. It is very clear that some rogue elements are now involved in a campaign to distract me from carrying out my responsibilities,” said Zikalala

“I have instructed my office to hand over the audio clip to law enforcement agencies and cyber-experts for investigation. We need to establish the identity of the voices behind the conversation and reasons behind such unfounded allegations.”

He added: “I want to assure the people of this province and the country as a whole that our main focus at the moment is on establishing the government of the people. On May 8, millions of people celebrated the opportunity to elect the party of their choice to lead the government that represents their aspirations. We don’t want to betray the trust of those who voted as they are waiting for service delivery.”

On Monday, Zikalala was recommended as premier by the party’s national executive committee, the ANC’s  highest decision-making body, after meeting in Irene, east of Pretoria. After his nomination, Zikalala said he would reflect foremost on the 10 percentage point drop in support the ANC suffered in the province.

The ANC won 54.22 % of the votes in the province — a drop from the 65.3% it achieved in 2014.

In the four-minute audio clip, the two unidentified men are heard discussing Gumede’s arrest at length in Zulu. They even claim it was supposed to have taken place before the elections, but that a deal was struck that she be arrested after the vote.

One man, purporting to be a Hawks investigator, is heard saying: “Simbambe la emncane khona”, which, loosely translates to “She has no escape route now”.

The second man responds: “Ngaze ngajabula lomama wamagwinya kade ngangithi akaboshwe” (“I’m so happy. I’ve been saying all along that this woman of sweeteners must be arrested).”

He goes on to say that Gumede does not have any support now, to which the other responds that she knew the investigators were waiting until after the elections to arrest her.

The alleged Hawks investigator then says that Gumede was supposed to have been arrested last week but “we thought that they would think we’re playing politics, but we’re not playing politics and decided to leave her”.

He goes on to say that some municipal councillors will be arrested soon. He then drops a bombshell, saying he had allegedly discussed Gumede’s arrest with Zikalala the previous day, telling him that they needed to meet. He describes Zikalala as his close friend.

The second man then interjects and says Gumede and Zikalala belong to the same ANC camp, which is disputed by the other person. “No, no! He is no longer part of that,” he says, and claims that Zikalala was instructed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to deal with divisions within the ANC if he wanted to be premier.

The second man also claims to have worked for Integrity Forensic Solutions, the company which compiled the forensic report that informed the Hawks investigation into Gumede’s alleged wrongdoing over a R208m tender.

Gumede, who is also the ANC’s Ethekwini regional secretary, appeared in the Durban commercial crimes court on Tuesday, alongside Ethekwini municipal councillor Mondli Mthembu and service provider Craig Ponnan on fraud and corruption charges relating to a R208m Durban solid waste contract awarded in 2016. They were granted R50,000 bail each. 

The trio, together with nine other suspects who were arrested two weeks ago, are due back in court on August 8.