/ 25 September 2014

Patronage may break fall of ANC duo

Northern Cape ANC leader John Block.
Northern Cape ANC leader John Block.

The ANC’s integrity commission wants ANC Northern Cape provincial chairperson John Block to quit as finance MEC because he has brought the party into disrepute. But Block may be let off the hook, thanks to friends in high places.

The commission recommended the Northern Cape strongman’s dismissal to the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting over the weekend. Block is facing fraud, corruption and money laundering charges, a matter the commission views as an embarrassment to the party.

Block may, however, be saved by technicalities. The NEC meeting referred the integrity commission’s report to the national working committee, where the party’s highest decision-making body between congresses said the report should have been submitted in the first place.

This decision has prompted speculation from some in the ANC that Block is being protected for factional reasons. With many leaders planning ahead for the 2017 party leadership race, alliances of convenience are already being formed.

Four NEC members that the Mail & Guardian spoke to said they suspect that the recommendation will not be implemented.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) alleged that Block benefited from kickbacks when the Trifecta group of companies entered into several lease agreements with Northern Cape government departments in which fees for rentals, or rental space, were grossly inflated.

Siphoned funds
The ANC’s integrity commission also presented a progress report on ANC MP and NEC member Pule Mabe, who stands accused of siphoning funds from the South African Social Security Agency and/or its social responsibility fund account through organisations that did not qualify for funding.

Mabe’s case before the integrity commission is yet to be finalised. The commission told the NEC meeting it is still awaiting documents from Mabe that he said would prove his innocence.

The chairperson of the commission, former Rivonia triallist Andrew Mlangeni, confirmed that a report had been presented to the NEC but refused to comment further.

One ex officio member of the NEC, however, said the ANC’s hands are tied.

“You either engage the person and convince them to resign or you take that person through a disciplinary committee,” he said. “But what are you going to charge him [with] because the matter is still in court?”

Integrity report
Some NEC members expressed doubts that the commission’s recommendations will be implemented. “I don’t think it [the report] will ever come back to the NEC. They sent it back to the national working committee to get rid of it,” said one. 

A second NEC member said: “We all know Pule [Mabe] is going to become ANC Youth League president with or without that [integrity] report.” 

Mabe is one of three candidates vying for the youth league’s top seat.

The second NEC member said the ANC acknowledged that both Block and Mabe had compromised the party’s reputation, but it could not “deal with them” because of patronage. 

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe dismissed as “rumour-mongers” the party seniors who ­suggested that the integrity commission’s report is being ignored.

“It must be processed through the structures,” said Mantashe. “I am not a structure. I am an individual.”

Citing the case of disgraced minister Dina Pule, he said the ANC has demonstrated in the past that it takes the recommendations of the integrity commission seriously.

Both Block and Mabe attended the weekend’s NEC meeting. Block could not be reached for comment and Mabe declined to answer the M&G‘s questions, saying the ANC must be allowed to process the matter internally.

Those close to Mabe believe there is an orchestrated plan to tarnish his image ahead of the youth league’s elective conference.