Deputy speaker of the Limpopo legislature Lehlogonolo Masoga says he will accept the nomination to become secretary of the ANC in the province, despite a public protector report that found him guilty of abusing public funds.
After a 2014 trip to the United States, Masoga was accused of incurring a cellphone bill of more than R100 000, allegedly by watching pornography.
The matter was referred to the public protector, who in a report released earlier this month found that Masoga had irregularly used government funds. She recommended that he pay back the money.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Masoga did not deny the exorbitant bill, but rejected allegations that he had incurred it by accessing pornographic material. He dismissed the allegations as a political smear campaign intended to tarnish his name ahead of this weekend’s provincial elective conference.
“It has always been political. Even when the story came out in 2015 it was from politicians, both in the opposition benches and the ANC benches. Even now it’s still political,” Masoga said.
He was vindicated by the public protector’s report, he said, which did not mention the pornographic content.
“The public protector report couldn’t have come at a better time because at least now the people of South Africa know the lies that were told about me were just spurious and intended at damaging my good name, and they failed.”
Despite Masoga’s claim that the public protector cleared him of allegations of watching erotic content, the report is silent about that specific aspect. The report recommends that action be taken against Masoga and that the provincial legislature should ensure that it recovers a reasonable portion of the amount spent by the deputy speaker.
Masoga, however, said he took accountability for the high data usage and was willing to pay back any amount he had overspent.
This weekend, he will contest the position of provincial secretary at the ANC’s Limpopo conference.
A former chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the province, Masoga was expelled by the youth league under the leadership of its former president, Julius Malema, for sowing division within the organisation.
He made a comeback as roads and transport MEC in 2013.
Masoga believes his experience within the governing party and his “youthful exuberance” will add value to the ANC ahead of the 2019 national elections.
“I have gained sufficient experience to empower me to lead the movement in the province. I bring with [me] some vibrancy and dynamism that is needed, particularly during this era when the dominant membership, which is reflective of what is happening in society, is in the main young people,” he said.
He will be contesting the position against former secretary Soviet Lekganyane, who is planning to make a comeback to the position.
Lekganyane occupied the position between 2011 and 2013 under the chairmanship of former Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale. During that period, the national government placed five provincial departments under administration. Lekganyane’s provincial executive committee was also disbanded by the national executive committee after a falling-out with former president Jacob Zuma.
Lekganyane’s campaign has already been met with resistance by ANC alliance partners the South African Communist Party (SACP) and trade union federation Cosatu, who said they did not believe he was fit for the position.
Lekganyane also served as SACP provincial secretary from 2008 before his resignation in 2011, when the party accused him of stealing its confidential documents.
A party insider told the M&G that, although Lekganyane had the experience of occupying senior leadership positions, his track record was likely to work against him.
“He’s got a chance but his campaign is wasted. And his background is not good. He has been disbanded everywhere … YCL [Young Communist League], the communist party and the ANC,” said the party insider.
Another controversial figure expected to contest one of the top five positions is Vhembe executive mayor Florence Radzilani, who is vying for the deputy chairperson position.
She has a cloud hanging over her head after the Vhembe district municipality invested more than R300-million — almost 35% of its operating revenue — in the embattled VBS Mutual Bank.
Her municipality is one of eight being investigated for investing almost R1-billion with the bank, which was placed under curatorship after suffering a liquidity crisis.
There have been suspicions that the funds collected from multiple municipalities allowed the bank to lend Zuma the funds he needed to repay what he used for the nonsecurity upgrades to his Nkandla home.
Former co-operative governance MEC Makoma Makhurupetje, a known supporter of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has been blamed for failing to intervene when the municipalities made the costly financial decisions.
Makhurupetje is also understood to be vying for a leadership position at the conference after she was nominated by some ANC branches for the position of deputy secretary.
She will contest the position with four other candidates: economic development MEC Seaparo Sekoati; sports, arts and culture MEC Onicca Moloi; ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) member Thabo Mokone; and South African Municipal Workers’ Union provincial secretary Simon Mathe.
Mining mogul Tim Tebeila will contest the position of treasurer with incumbent Daniel Msiza and health MEC Poppy Ramathuba.
Meanwhile, disgruntled ANC members have threatened to interdict the provincial conference. They are alleging that the current PEC is illegitimate because its term expired in February.
The group wants the ANC to disband the structure and appoint a provincial task team. It is also demanding that a new date be set for the conference and that the task team oversees a fresh branch nominations process.