Ex-City mayor breaks down in court

Former eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede and Siphelele Jiyane (right). Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

Former eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede and Siphelele Jiyane (right). Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Nov 16, 2023


Durban — Emotions ran high at the Durban High Court on Wednesday as former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede screamed and broke down in the courtroom as the case was about to be postponed for another day.

Gumede is on trial with 21 co-accused on charges that include conspiracy to commit corruption, corruption, fraud, money laundering, racketeering, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act, and contravention of the Municipal Systems Act in a contract worth more than R300 million related to a Durban Solid Waste tender.

When court proceedings started, advocate Sicelo Zungu, representing Mthokozisi Nojiyeza who is accused number six in the matter, asked the court for a postponement because he did not have statements. Nojiyeza axed his lawyer whom he shared with Gumede, advocate Jay Naidoo.

Judge Sharmaine Balton was not impressed with this application and said Zungu’s client wasted the whole of last week when he did not come to court and claimed to be sick.

“The accused are paying a lot of money to their counsels. We can’t have this. These adjournments are a big cost to the public, the court’s time and the other accused,” she said.

Judge Balton said she was concerned by the manner in which the case continued.

“The accused is playing a game and if all the accused did this, this matter would continue to face adjournments,” she said.

Zungu said the concerns of the judge was understood but she did not know what he was facing as counsel for Nojiyeza.

Naidoo objected to the request. Other counsel also objected but some agreed to it. Judge Balton said if the State agreed to it, she would have no choice but to rest her case.

State prosecutor advocate Ashika Lucken agreed to the adjournment.

“What the State is trying to avoid is prejudice to it,” said Lucken.

It was at this moment that Gumede let out a loud cry – the court went quiet as everyone tried to understand what was happening.

“Ooh my God I’d rather die instead of going through this. This prosecutor is playing games with me,” Gumede said, screaming and crying.

Judge Balton adjourned the case for a few minutes. As she stood up, Gumede’s supporters, who usually sit outside the courtroom as they are not allowed inside, rushed to the door to see what was happening. Some of the accused sympathised with her, while some legal representatives comforted her. She was then taken outside the courtroom and everyone was left shocked and confused.

Naidoo went to speak to his client because she was crying. After approximately 15 minutes, Judge Balton came back. Naidoo apologised on behalf of Gumede and said it must be understood that frustrations arise because of the adjournments. He said the accused were working to pay their counsels.

“We are asking that you put measures in place so that on Monday when we come back we continue and no time is wasted,” said Naidoo.

Judge Balton said she herself was on the side of justice and was equally frustrated.

“Every day I am here at 10 in the morning,” she said.

She said there were a lot of aspects to this and that the public was paying a lot of money for this case. Judge Balton postponed the case to Monday and adjourned the court. Gumede was calm but still crying, and she left as soon as the matter was adjourned.

Her spokesperson, Siphelele Jiyane, said Gumede was borrowing money not so long ago just so that she could pay Naidoo.

“She is not in a good place emotionally and financially. This is a tedious event. It’s very emotional. Everyone can see that the State is running away from justice,” said Jiyane.

Jiyane accused the State of playing delaying tactics in Gumede’s political career.

“We heard the frustrations of the judge about the whole thing, she is on the side of justice,” he said.

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