State slammed over ‘irrelevant’ evidence

Zandile Gumede former eThekwini mayor. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Zandile Gumede former eThekwini mayor. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 21, 2023


Durban — The defence objected to the State bringing evidence they said was irrelevant to the corruption, money laundering, racketeering and fraud trial against the former mayor of eThekwini Zandile Gumede and 21 others on Monday in the Durban High Court.

The case, which has been marred by delays and drama, started on time on Monday morning, with the State saying it wanted to bring evidence which would prove the racketeering charge.

Last week, the case was adjourned until Monday and things did not end well as Gumede broke down, screamed, cried and said she hoped to die. On Monday she was in high spirits again and happy that there was progress.

Furthermore, the defence objected to the State’s evidence, saying that it would be irrelevant and the witness who was to take the stand – a former municipal official, who cannot be named by the media – could not testify on processes that were aborted. Gumede’s lawyer, advocate Jay Naidoo, told the court the evidence should not be allowed in court.

“The evidence is completely unrelated to the charges. Court should not allow irrelevant evidence to be heard,” said Naidoo.

The presiding officer, Judge Sharmaine Balton, agreed with the defence, asking how the court was going to allow evidence that was not related.

The State finally concluded its evidence with the former official, and Naidoo started with his cross-examination. He probed the former official about accused four, Allan Robert Abbu, who was the deputy head of DSW responsible for the management of the procurement processes related to the DSW contract.

The former official told the court that he did not understand how Abbu got to be in this position as he was a senior official in another department. The witness had previously told the court he was not involved during the process of awarding the tender to the companies, but Abbu was involved.

He said when Abbu was supposed to sign the invoices of the contractors, he was not available, which meant he was the one who should sign. Furthermore, the official told the court he was not happy with Abbu for advertising the tender contracts for collecting waste in six months, as that did not give them much time.

“The advert should have been out a long time ago,” he said.

Naidoo asked the witness if he was unhappy with Abbu “so much” that he signed his performance bonus at the end of the year. The witness agreed.

The witness further agreed that he never took Abbu to a disciplinary hearing. The accused are facing more than 2 000 charges, including conspiracy to commit corruption, corruption, fraud, money laundering, racketeering, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act, and of the Municipal Systems Act, in relation to a R300 million DSW contract.

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