Opposition parties in the KZN legislature have welcomed the ANC's decision to relieve Zandile Gumede of her mayoral duties in eThekwini and to redeploy her.
After weeks of debating Gumede's continued tenure, the ANC's provincial executive committee (PEC) announced on Tuesday that she and the entire eThekwini exco, would be removed immediately and redeployed.
Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo was also removed from his position, as well as the entire Msunduzi executive council.
Msunduzi encompasses Pietermaritzburg.
The news was welcomed by opposition parties and civil society organisations on Tuesday.
The official opposition in Kwazulu-Natal (KZN), the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) called the move "long overdue".
"There is nothing to celebrate because the ANC has failed dismally to take the necessary steps since the corruption was first detected in the eThekwini Metro," said IFP leader in KZN Velenkosini Hlabisa.
"It also failed to act against the inept leadership at the Msunduzi Municipality which has been placed under an administrator."
Hlabisa claimed the Msunduzi Municipality was "in shambles" due to the fact that the former KZN MEC of Cogta, Nomusa Dube Ncube failed to act quickly enough against "incompetent ANC comrades".
"Residents of both the eThekwini Metro and Msunduzi Municipality have been let down the by inept ANC leadership," said Hlabisa.
DA eThekwini Caucus Leader Nicole Graham, in a statement, said the party also welcomed Gumede's axing.
"Gumede's firing is a direct result of pressure from opposition parties, the media and the people who live in this city. They have seen the effects of the chaos that Zandile Gumede has unleashed on eThekwini first-hand, and stood up to say no more.
"Gumede's axing, however, is only the first step," Graham said.
"The investigative report that led to her arrest explains just how Gumede had interfered with key line departments and appointments to capture the municipality. She has interfered with procurement processes and made sure that those close to her have benefited.
"She has allegedly been aided and abetted by municipal officials, fellow councillors and the ANC leadership in KZN. If good governance is to be restored, all of those who have worked with her need to go too," said Graham.
"The names of the 62 Councillors who were mentioned in court as having worked with Gumede to implement her corrupt schemes have still not been released. This means that almost a third of eThekwini's 219 councillors were involved in and have benefited from Gumede's actions. The ANC and the council must urgently resolve to act against these councillors and fire them too," said her statement.
ANC KZN provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli earlier denied the axings were prompted by court cases against prominent leaders, like Gumede, who is currently the subject of a fraud and corruption trial in the Durban Specialised Crimes Court.
Instead, the redeployments were motivated by a need to address service delivery issues identified by the provincial working committee (PWC) in "distressed" municipalities in the province, Ntuli said in Durban on Tuesday.
"Look, we are not removing comrade Gumede on the basis of their court cases. If that was the logic, why did we remove the exco and mayor of Msunduzi? There is no court case. The decision to redeploy and remove her is purely and solely on the basis of our assessment on the state of the municipality," Ntuli said.
Civil action organisation Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) said Gumede should have been removed earlier.
"There is little doubt that the former mayor has left a legacy of defective services, wastage, poor management and aberrant leadership. The city's own monthly and quarterly reports, numerous media articles and even a provincial report have pointed to this fact for nearly the entire duration of her tenure,'' said Tim Tyrrell, OUTA KZN Provincial Manager.
"While we must acknowledge that the KwaZulu-Natal ANC has taken a step in the right direction, it must be said that this action should have occurred much earlier. It is hoped that the delay is not the result of a settlement agreement being reached where they will be redeployed and continue to be paid from the public purse, an action we will oppose," said Tyrrell.
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