'Black bag man' sticks to his guns

It just gets murkier. Charles Modise, the man at the centre of the claims and counter-claims surrounding Blade Nzimande, says he is sticking by his story that he gave the South African Communist Party chief R500 000 in cash intended as a party donation.

Former Cosatu president Willie Madisha and former SACP treasurer Phillip Dexter both lost their positions after supporting Modise’s complaint that he donated the money, but was never given a receipt.

Madisha provided a sworn affidavit to police saying he had handed the cash to Nzimande in two black rubbish bags, while Dexter told the party’s top structures he could find no trace of it in the books.

Controversy around the donation flared again last week when The Times reported on an affidavit by Modise claiming he had been pressurised by Dexter and Madisha into helping them smear Nzimande.

The affidavit was handed in to the Pietermaritzburg High Court by attorney Zehir Omar as part of an application to be party to the ANC president Jacob Zuma’s efforts to have the corruption case against him thrown out.

Nzimande is a leading proponent of the theory that the charges against Zuma are the result of a politically motivated campaign.

The Times also reported on a letter allegedly showing that some of Modise’s legal costs had been paid by Dexter.

Modise’s own account is contradictory, however.

“The money was given,” he told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday, “as I’ve said before, Blade actually thanked me and my wife for it.”

Modise had previously told the M&G he believed Nzimande was responsible for a conspiracy to have him arrested on fraud and immigration charges, but he now says he received fresh information while in prison in Kimberley.
He now blames Madisha for his arrest and incarceration last year.

“It is Madisha that misled me about Blade,” he insisted, saying this had been a ploy to turn him against recently re-elected chair of the Northern Cape ANC John Block, with whom he had a controversial business association.

Block, who was in the political wilderness at the time of Modise’s arrest, is a key backer of Zuma.

Both Madisha and Dexter reacted angrily to the claim that they had tried to smear Nzimande.

“It’s complete rubbish,” Madisha said. “Modise’s the one who opened the case. I didn’t open the case; I didn’t persuade him to open the case. I only came in because he said I was a witness, which I was.

“The smear campaign is rubbish and I’m going to sue him,” Madisha added.

“I’m out of the party, I’m out of the union movement, but there is this persistent claim that we are against particular leaders,” Madisha said, alluding to his and Dexter’s perceived hostility to Nzimande and Zuma. “It’s just rubbish.”

Dexter flatly denied paying Modise’s legal costs, saying he had passed on money from a business associate of Modise’s who had wanted to remain anonymous.

“Modise was referred to me during my tenure as national treasurer of the SACP. He alleged then and—as far as I am aware—has, to date, not changed the claim that he donated R500 000 to the SACP.

“Upon thorough investigation I found no record of that donation and reported the matter to the politburo of the SACP,” Dexter said.

The fact that Modise had changed his story, Dexter argued, suggested that “he has been influenced to involve himself in the court case of the president of the ANC, Comrade Jacob Zuma. If this is so, Modise is playing a very foolish game. His credibility is by now, I venture to suggest, a matter of public ridicule.”

SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka said “this changes nothing. We as the SACP have never received R500 000. We did everything we could to investigate it, including subjecting the general secretary to a forensic audit. According to us there is no donation.”

Nic Dawes

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