ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has moved to act on claims that his former “premier league” comrade, Deputy President David Mabuza, interfered with the process to elect his successor as ANC provincial chairperson in Mpumalanga.
Mabuza has also been accused by Mpumalanga branch leaders of having used bogus branches to get elected during the previous provincial conference.
Magashule, the former Free State premier, has instructed the ANC’s dispute resolution committee to investigate the provincial executive committee (PEC) and the allegations against Mabuza, made public by six ANC members last week.
Magashule’s move against Mabuza comes at the same time as a former employee of Mabuza’s rival, former Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa, has made claims that Mabuza paid him to lie in court.
Jan Venter testified in the civil case in 2016 that an “intelligence report” naming Mabuza as an apartheid spy was concocted by Phosa. This week he claimed that he lied in court out of “fear” and in return for cash payments from Mabuza’s lawyer, Davies Mculu, raising questions about why he has now made this statement and who is behind his claim.
The two developments come against the backdrop of claims by supporters of Magashule, North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo and other backers of the failed bid for the ANC presidency by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in December last year that state organs were being used to purge them.
The latest developments are likely to put pressure on Mabuza, who is still resented by the Dlamini-Zuma faction for his about-turn in backing Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive for the presidency. Mabuza’s move is credited by his supporters with swinging the presidential contest in Ramaphosa’s favour and has sparked a backlash from his former allies in the Free State, North West and KwaZulu-Natal.
Magashule is seen by some in the ANC as being more than willing to have the complaints against Mabuza aired by the ANC’s dispute resolution structures in retaliation for the former Mpumalanga premier’s abandonment of the Dlamini-Zuma project.
Magashule’s supporters have previously complained about a “selective investigation” by law enforcement agencies of the former Free State premier and Mahumapelo, whereas corruption allegations made against Mabuza and others close to Ramaphosa were not given the same priority.
In a letter sent to ANC Mpumalanga members Sello Shai, Ronnie Malomane, Mantlhakeng Mahlangu, Johan Sibiya, Musi Skosana and Fannie Sithole, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte confirmed that Magashule had referred the matter to the ANC’s dispute resolution committee and that it would meet the disgruntled members on May 9 and 10.
Last week the six went public about their complaints to Luthuli House — that Mabuza had “anointed” provincial secretary Mandla Ndlovu as ANC chair in Mpumalanga and of gatekeeping by the PEC, claiming that the province had 5 300 “bogus” members, which had influenced the provincial conference last year.
Malomane said he and the representatives of Mpumalanga ANC branches had tried “for a very long time” to resolve their complaints “internally” with Luthuli House before going to the media.
“We are not disgruntled people. We are ANC members in good standing who represent branches. We decided to follow the correct procedures and delivered our grievances to the secretary general of the ANC.”
Malomane said that, after the ANC’s Nasrec congress in December, the province needed to replace Mabuza and two other provincial executive committee members who were elected to the national executive committee. But before the branches could start the process, Mabuza had “anointed” Ndlovu as his successor. Ndlovu is currently the acting ANC chair in the province.
“The deputy president’s pronouncement that Mandla Ndlovu is capable of being premier was wrong. It was unconstitutional. That pronouncement was made before the branches could take positions or nominate and elect delegates,” Malomane said.
Mabuza has also been accused of unilaterally securing a non-member of the provincial executive committee, Refilwe Mtshweni, the position of interim premier after he was appointed deputy president in March.
Some branches in Mpumalanga would prefer PEC members Fish Mahlalela or Peter Nyoni to succeed Mabuza as ANC chairperson and the premier after the 2019 general elections.
Malomane said they had been complaining about the branch management practices of the PEC since 2015. They had also complained about the removal of capable mayors in a number of municipalities at Mabuza’s behest.
Malomane said they had asked Magashule to dissolve the PEC and replace it with an “impartial” provincial task team to oversee electing a new leadership at a special provincial general council (PGC) meeting, which they insisted must take place this month.
Other anti-Mabuza’s supporters in Mpumalanga threatened to go to court if Luthuli House did not force the province to convene the provincial general council.
A PEC member, who asked not to be named, said this week that the PGC conference had been delayed because Mabuza was worried that his preferred candidate may lose. “DD [Mabuza] has lost control of branches but he still controls regional executive committees and the PEC. The reason they [PEC] can’t convene the PGC is because he fears they [Mabuza and his supporters] might lose the contest for new leadership.”
He said that Mabuza supporters also feared the outcome of the PGC would “disrupt” their nominations of ANC representatives to the provincial legislature and Parliament.
“They know that, if the status quo remains, they will control the list process.”
According to the ANC’s constitution, there must be a provincial general council every year. “It’s a constitutional requirement. The NEC does not have the powers to waive that clause,” said the PEC member.
Mabuza supporters are also questioning the timing of the renewed claims by Venter that he was paid to lie during Mabuza’s failed R10-million defamation case in 2016.
In the case, brought by Mabuza against Phosa in the high court in Pretoria, Venter had been called as a witness against Phosa.
Venter had first testified that he had heard Phosa and his business partner, Nick Elliot, concocting the 2014 “intelligence” report naming Mabuza as a spy. Venter had then changed his testimony to say that he had lied on instruction from Mabuza.
He also called two press conferences in which he issued contradictory statements over his reasons for both testifying in the case and for changing his evidence.
Judge Bill Prinsloo, in dismissing Mabuza’s claim, said Venter had been paid substantial amounts of money by Mabuza’s lawyer, Ian Small-Smith, and other people. Prinsloo said he had “been left with a strong impression that money was coming from [Mabuza] himself”.
This week, in a letter Venter emailed to the media and to Mabuza and Mculu, he said that during and after the court case he had been paid amounts of R10 000 upwards by Small-Smith and Mculu and that he had been given R30 000 by Mabuza during the case. He claimed Small-Smith also rewarded him by arranging employment for him.
Venter said he had been threatened by Mabuza that he would end up suffering the same fate as murdered Mbombela speaker Jimmy Mohlala and that this fear, and his greed, made him lie in court.
“I am not lying now,” Venter said. “I admitted to lying in court because I swore an oath. I am providing you with emails and bank statements to prove that I am telling the truth this time.”
Venter said he was not being paid by any politician or anyone else to make the allegations against Mabuza and his lawyers.
On Wednesday, Venter made an application for a protection order against Mabuza in the Pretoria North magistrate’s court. Mabuza will have to appear in court on May 21 to show cause for why it should not be granted.
Small-Smith denied Venter’s allegations, saying “it is news to me that he alleged I paid him to commit perjury or rewarded him with a Fidelity job to lie. He is talking nonsense.”
Small-Smith said he had helped Venter “of my own accord. Mabuza had nothing to do with it. I didn’t need his permission to help Venter.”
Mculu confirmed that Mabuza’s legal team had provided Venter with protection and accommodation during the court case because his evidence was central to it. He also assisted him financially.
“He [Venter] said he was afraid of Phosa and we said we will protect you and assist you and help arrange a job after the case. This did not mean that he must perjure himself. It was solely to get this man to come and testify,” Mculu said.
He said the claims that Venter was bribed were “fabrications”.
“The man is a liar. Maybe he has a new handler now who has encouraged him to come up with this to try and destabilise Mabuza,” Mculu said. “This may be part of an orchestrated campaign to try and discredit the man.”
The Mail & Guardian requested comment from the presidency, but it had not responded at the time of publishing.