eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. Picture: THE TIMES/THULI DLAMINI
eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. Picture: THE TIMES/THULI DLAMINI

Supporters of embattled eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede are demanding that she be reinstated, saying they will bring down ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee (PEC) if their demand is not met.

Hundreds of Gumede’s supporters marched to the ANC’s provincial headquarters in Durban on Tuesday,  singing anti- President Cyril Ramaphosa and KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala songs. They warned police minister Bheki Cele to stop pursuing “their leaders”.

There was a similar but  smaller march last  Friday when dozens of her supporters marched at Durban’s north beach.

Last week, the ANC provincial executive ordered Gumede to take a leave of absence after her appearance at the Durban Commercial Crimes Court last month on a charge of unduly influencing the awarding of a R208m tender, which was awarded in 2016 shortly after she took over as the mayor. She is out on R50,000 bail.

Former president Jacob Zuma has formally announced his support for Gumede, saying the case against her was politically motivated.

The march on Tuesday followed reports that a KwaZulu-Natal ANC faction, which supports former Zuma, is plotting to bring down President Cyril Ramaphosa and will use anything at its disposal to achieve this objective.

Police maintained a strong presence at the ANC provincial headquarters throughout Tuesday as Gumede’s supporters demanded to be addressed by Zikalala or ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli.

They also asked Ramaphosa, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, and ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe to address them.

Mzo Dube, a Gumede supporter and one of the ring-leaders of the march, said they decided to mobilise and blockade the ANC headquarters to demand that her “politically motivated” prosecution stop. They also demanded the reinstatement of the ANC eThekwini regional executive committee “with immediate effect”.

The eThekwini regional executive committee’s term of office ended last year, but the ANC had feared holding a highly contested elective conference months before the May 8 general elections. Gumede was made part of the regional task-team appointed by the ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee last week to run the region until it holds its conference, expected around October.

“We believe that Gumede is being targeted and ostracised because of her political views. She is being prosecuted to serve certain factional interests. It is very sad when state institutions like the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are used to advance a certain political outcome,” Dube said.

Other marchers said they will stay on at the ANC provincial headquarters until Gumede has been reinstated to the two positions.

Ntombi Hadebe, one of the marchers, said she supports both Zuma and Gumede. “It is clear to us that there are some people in the ANC who are hell-bent to see our leaders in jail for trumped up charges. First it was Zuma, now its Gumede. We will not allow that to happen.”