ANC won't throw Niehaus 'in the dustbin'

The ANC accepted Carl Niehaus’s resignation as one of the party’s spokespersons, it announced on Friday.

He will however remain in the organisation but in a different position, said ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe at a press briefing at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.

Said Mantashe: “We emphasise that he is a cadre of the movement who suffered a great deal for the ANC but that is no justification to do wrong ... It is the responsibility of the movement to counsel cadres and facilitate them.”

“Activists can’t just be thrown in the dustbin, saying he or she has outgrown their usefulness.”

Niehaus was not present at the briefing.

In an interview on Friday morning, Niehaus told Talk Radio 702 that he had disclosed his financial woes to the party before he was hired.

Mantashe refuted this saying: “Any disclosure was a matter of us beginning to ask questions on issues that came our way. We confirm we have raised questions with him on a number of those issues but not before he was employed.”

Niehaus was confronted on his indiscretions and the ANC entered into a “particular agreement with him”.

“When we confronted him the question of a need for counselling [arose],” Mantashe said. He did not elaborate further on the agreement.

Mantashe also stressed that Niehaus’ role was a “functional” one in that he was employed as a media liaison officer and not the party’s spokesperson.

“Carl Niehaus was employed as a media liaison officer. Our spokesman is Jessie Duarte ... he was a spokesman on issues.”

Niehaus will be replaced by someone within the ANC’s communication team.

Niehaus tendered his resignation following a report by the Mail & Guardian on Friday.

A tearful Niehaus admitted that he:

  • Forged signatures while he was chief executive of the Gauteng Economic Development Agency (Geda) before resigning in December 2005;
  • Borrowed money over a six-year period from some of the brightest stars of the ANC and business galaxy, much of which he has not paid back;
  • Asked to be connected to Brett Kebble because he was ‘desperate for financial help”;
  • Had to leave a top job at Deloitte and Touche in 2003 after his financial woes became embarrassing;
  • Owed the Rhema Church more than R700 000 when he was asked to resign from his post as chief executive and spokesperson by a full board meeting in 2004; and
  • Had to repay R24 000 to director general in the presidency Frank Chikane when he left his job there under a cloud in 2004.
The Gauteng government on Friday denied that Niehaus first brought the matter to its attention by confessing, but said it had independently discovered that Niehaus had forged a letter to secure a loan.

Mantashe added that there was “no cover-up” on the Geda matter.

“No fraudulent transaction went through ... it was stopped ... the man was asked to leave.”

He said the ANC would help Niehaus preserve his skills as a communicator and that the party needed the experience he had.

“He has a very sharp mind…. we will sit and look now and re-deploy him.”

DA calls for audit
The Democratic Alliance on Friday called for a forensic audit into Geda.

The party’s leader in the Gauteng legislature Jack Bloom said the fraud also implicated former provincial finance minister Paul Mashatile, now Gauteng premier.

“Niehaus says he confessed this fraud to Mashatile and was told to quit or face a disciplinary enquiry,” said Bloom.

“Mashatile clearly wished to cover up this embarrassing matter by an ANC cadre. This is reprehensible in itself, but he may also have committed a criminal offence in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, which makes it an offence not to report a corrupt act to the police.”

He is taking legal advice on laying a charge.

“The Auditor General should also conduct a forensic audit into the affairs of Geda during the seven months that Niehaus was in charge.”

He said Mashatile should have been at the forefront of exposing it, not covering it up.

“What more is there that we don’t know about?” - Sapa

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