With only three months to go before the local government elections, the ANC has been left to deal with yet another embarrassing arrest of a mayor for fraud.
This week, the Hawks swooped on ANC-governed Amathole District Municipality mayor Nomasikizi Konza for allegedly defrauding the municipality of about R6 million.
In June 2014 Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Ncitha and her deputy, Temba Tinta, were arrested for fraud and money laundering involving R5.9 million, which was meant to be spent on memorial service events after former president Nelson Mandela died in 2013.
Ncitha and Tinta were recalled by the ANC in June 2015. Their case has still not gone to trial.
Both the Amathole District Municipality and the Buffalo City Metro have their headquarters in the coastal city of East London.
Konza, who appeared in court on Monday, along with seven other officials linked to the Amathole Economic Development Agency, addressed a council meeting on Friday, where she delivered the state of the district address, in Stutterheim.
With a cloud hanging over her head, a small crowd of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members were picketing outside the venue. Konza appeared to enjoy support from ANC members who had come to defend her.
Konza began her speech by addressing the elephant in the room and acknowledged that she had been arrested on Monday. She said she wished the police had thoroughly investigated the case before arresting her.
“I am a South African, bound by the laws of the country. As mayor, I am not above the law. I trust the judiciary and wish that in this case there will be no influence, political or otherwise,” she said.
Konza said she was planning to visit kingdoms around the district so she could “explain herself personally”.
“I believe I am innocent until proven guilty. I felt I needed to do this in the beginning [of the speech] so that I don’t appear to be arrogant,” she said.
While appearing in court on Monday, Konza said she could only afford R500 for bail because she was a single parent and earned R30 000 a month as district mayor.
Initially, she claimed that she had an RDP house in Cathcart and a car, but she later admitted under cross-examination by the state that she also owned a house in East London, for which she pays a bond of R12 000 a month. The house is worth more than R1 million.
In the end, she was granted R15 000 bail, which she paid a few minutes later at the Cambridge Police Station.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have called for Konza to be suspended pending finalisation of the case.
Siyanda Ndikinda of the EFF said it was “disrespectful” to be addressed by Konza, an alleged criminal.
“All we are saying is that, if the ANC is serious about clean governance, it should have suspended her until the matter is finalised,” Ndikinda said.
Kevin Mileham, DA MP and shadow minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, also called for her immediate suspension.
“While the DA stands firm in the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, we call on the ANC to do the right thing and suspend Konza pending the outcome of this investigation, so that the integrity of the investigation can remain intact and free from all potential manipulation in the hands of a mayor who has a dark cloud hanging over her head,” Mileham said.
Oscar Mabuyane, the provincial secretary of the ANC, said the party was concerned about the mayor’s arrest.
“Anything that seeks to implicate us and our deployees on any matters or allegations of corruption is a very concerning matter to ANC. We would like to keep ourselves away from those issues,” Mabuyane said.
He said the provincial officials of the ANC would be meeting with the mayor tomorrow to get an explanation from her, which would then inform the way forward.