Jazz fest arrest ‘no coincidence’

Supporters of KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial task team convener Mike Mabuyakhulu are suspicious of the circumstances and timing of the former economic development MEC’s arrest on charges of fraud.

ANC Vryheid councillor Lawrence Dube, who brought the high court application forcing the rerun of the 2015 KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference, said that although the law should take its course, it would be “completely naive” to believe that it was not linked to the governing party’s elective meeting.

“We are in the season in which there will be all kinds of things happening. There will be a lot of things coming out about a lot of people. It would be naive not to expect this. There is a provincial conference being fought. That is a reality,” Dube said.

“It is a reality that Mabuyakhulu played a certain political role and has been named as a potential candidate for chairperson.”

Sihle Zikalala, the co-ordinator of the provincial task team and former chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, said the arrest would not stop the team from doing its job.

“We wish to express our profound respect for the rule of law and support all efforts towards fighting corruption. In the same vein, we equally believe that the rights of the accused must be fully observed … the matter should be treated in the fairest of manners,” Zikalala said. “We want to assure the membership that the work being done by the provincial interim committee continues as usual.”

On Wednesday, Mabuyakhulu was released on R50 000 bail after being arrested for corruption relating to R28‑million in provincial government funding that was spent on a 2012 jazz festival that never happened.

Mabuyakhulu, who was fired in 2016 in a post-elective conference reshuffle, appeared in the Durban commercial crimes court with 15 others, among them celebrity businessperson Mabheleni Ntuli.

Mabuyakhulu, his former department head Desmond Golding and a group of service providers were arrested by the Hawks over the funding of the cancelled festival. This comes shortly after Mabuyakhulu was appointed to head the provincial task team and will be interpreted by some as a political move against the Ramaphosa camp in the province.

Mabuyakhulu co-ordinated ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign in the province for the party’s December elective conference. He was arrested for corruption several years ago in the infamous “Amigos” case along with another axed MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni, over an alleged R1‑million bribe for the ANC from Uruguayan businessperson Gaston Savoi. The case was later withdrawn, sparking speculation that it was motivated by the ANC succession battle in the province.

It is not known at this stage what effect the arrest of Mabuyakhulu, who runs the provincial task team along with former KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Zikalala, will have on the process of rerunning the unlawful 2015 provincial elective conference. The high court in Pietermaritzburg declared the conference unlawful and the ANC national executive committee last month appointed the task team to oversee its rerun within three months.

According to the charge sheet, Golding made payments to co-accused Caesar Mkhize’s Soft Skills Communications of R28.5‑million for the North Sea Jazz Festival, which was meant to be held in 2012, despite the event having been cancelled.

The money was allegedly distributed among the other companies, including Ntuli’s Super Size Investment, which were meant to have been part of a joint venture with a Rotterdam-based partner. The event was cancelled after the agreement was altered by the department to bring in the other local companies, but the payments were still made.

The other accused — Zandile Mbongwe, Nothando Zungu of Ishashalazi Productions, Ntuli, Brenda and Mzwandile Ninela of Ishinga Holdings and Ntokozo Ndlovu of DMD Capital — were all released on bail of R30 000. They were not asked to plead and will appear in court again on April 8.

Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said more arrests were expected to be made soon.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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