/ 16 July 2008

‘No one in the ANC is permanent’

Fear and insecurity over what decision Luthuli House will take on the troubled government of the Eastern Cape last week led to jostling among provincial ANC leaders and the release of an explosive report implicating Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile and two senior ANC executive members in a R200-million scam.

The leaking of extracts from the report of the Pillay commission into corruption and maladministration, which Premier Nosimo Balindlela has been sitting on for more than two years, came two days before the ANC’s national executive committee was to decide Balindlela’s fate.

The leaked portion of the report alleges that Stofile, Enoch Godongwana, Mcebisi Jonas and ANC provincial chairperson and former education minister Stone Sizani were involved in corruption on a massive scale.

A provincial government official told the Mail & Guardian that the report was being leaked to prevent Balindlela being ousted from her position.

‘The premier has been under pressure from people who are implicated in the report, especially Godongwana and Sizani, so the timing was right to leak the report. We are just clearing the air. They knew that the report was going to expose them. Now that we have leaked the report they don’t stand any chance. All they want is to see her go.”

The report alleges that Stofile as former provincial premier, Godongwana as former finance minister and Sizani as former education minister benefited from government contracts valued at close to R200-million.

It accuses them of awarding contracts to companies linked to their partners and relatives. It also says how wives and relatives of the three leaders got loans from provincial government institutions, which were later written off without any attempts to recover the outstanding balances.

The irregular transactions recorded in the report include:

  • Stofile in his capacity as premier authorised payments of R760 000 to two entities linked to his wife;
  • A company in which Sizani was a shareholder was awarded a R157-million contract by the provincial government;
  • A company belonging to Sizani’s wife received a R50 000 loan from the provincial government which was later written off;
  • A loan of R900 000 was irregularly granted to Stofile to build a Spar in Alice, which was later written off by the provincial government;
  • Godongwana’s wife Tandi was awarded a R15,7-million contract; and
  • An entity linked to Godongwana’s sister was given an amount of R177 000 by the provincial government.
    Sizani and Godongwana told the Daily Dispatch that the Pillay commission was a political ploy to discredit them.

”The timing of the release of this report is also strange,” Godongwana reportedly said.

The ANC’s national working committee is believed to have recommended the removal of Balindlela for her lack of leadership in resolving perennial poor governance and service delivery.

The Eastern Cape, one of the poorest provinces in the country, has for years been plagued by incidents of financial mismanagement, corruption and poor corporate governance, which impacted on service delivery.

Balindlela had apparently failed to convince the ANC leadership, including party president Jacob Zuma and secretary general Gwede Mantashe, during their recent visit to the province that all was well.

The ANC’s national working committee recently held a meeting in the province, where it met with both the ANC and the Eastern Cape government to understand the nature of the problem.

The ANC’s alliance partners — Cosatu and the SACP have, on several occasions. called for Balindlela’s dismissal.

However, the ANC in the province believes removing her now would cause unnecessary instability months before elections.

Balindlela and her supporters believe the plan to fire her is part of an orchestrated attempt by Zuma supporters to get rid of all those who supported Mbeki in his bid to be re-elected ANC president last year.

Stofile, they say, is one of the ANC leaders who have been pushing hard for her replacement.

He is currently the convener of ANC deployees in the Eastern Cape and it is said by party insiders that he has tried to convince the NEC at previous meetings to force the province to go to an early conference.

Among those touted by Cosatu, the youth league and the SACP as replacements for Balindlela are: former Eastern Cape Development Corporation chief Jonas, former provincial finance minister Godongwana and SACP provincial chairperson and former public works provincial minister Phumulo Masualle.

But the provincial leadership will probably recommend provincial deputy chair and MEC for economic development and environmental affairs Mbulelo Sogoni. He is the highest ranking provincial serving in government.

The leadership in the Eastern Cape will meet on Monday to decide on how to deal with the situation should Balindlela get the chop.

Youth league deputy president Andile Lungisa says Balindlela must go because of the poor service delivery and administration in the province.

”No one in the ANC is permanent. People move all over the show 24 hours a day. There can be changes any time.”