Tensions in the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) have escalated with the suspension of KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Richard Mkhungo by its national leadership.
The suspension is the latest in the series of internal clashes sparked by the fallout after the removal from office of former President Jacob Zuma.
Mkhungo had planned to contest the secretary general’s post at the impending Sanco national conference, running alongside Zuma ally and Sanco treasurer Roy Moodley, who is contesting the civic body’s presidency.
Mkhungo and Sanco Limpopo secretary Theo Makola were suspended on August 11, after a meeting of the Sanco national working committee (NWC), for allegedly bringing the organisation into disrepute and ill-discipline. The NWC also warned members of the Sanco national executive committee (NEC) not to attend an “unconstitutional”special NEC meeting, which Mkhungo was involved in convening.
Mkhungo and the KwaZulu-Natal leadership have rejected the suspension and are threatening to take Sanco secretary general Skhumbuzo Mpanza to court. They have also threatened to call their own national conference and elect a caretaker leadership to run Sanco, should the conference be delayed again.
Mkhungo accused Mpanza of corruption involving Sanco funds and said the collapse of the national conference during May was done to prevent treasurer Roy Moodley, who he said ran Sanco’s finances “out of his own pocket”, from presenting financial statements that would expose misuse of about R5-million in Sanco funding.
Mkhungo is a close ally of Moodley, himself a staunch backer of Zuma, and will contest the Sanco secretary general’s post at its national conference.
Moodley, a security company and racehorse owner, who allegedly paid Zuma R1-million a month for several months at the beginning of his term as president, told the Mail & Guardian in May that he intended contesting for the position of Sanco president. Earlier this year, the Sanco NEC announced that Moodley had resigned but he subsequently denied doing so and is threatening to sue the organisation’s national office.
Sanco had been split into three factions ahead of the ANC’s national conference in December, dividing themselves over presidential hopefuls Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Zweli Mkhize.
Mkhungo, who previously used the surname Hlophe, led the faction that backed Dlamini-Zuma. The sitting provincial executive is still split along the same lines, with some members backing the suspension of Mkhungo.
Mkhungo denied that the current battle was linked to the post-conference shake-up in the ANC, saying what was taking place was a “natural process”in Sanco.
KwaZulu-Natal Sanco spokesperson Sanele Mbambo, who addressed a media briefing this week together with Mkhungo, said the province backed Moodley for re-election as treasurer and Mkhungo for election as secretary general.
Mbambo said the suspension and the attempt to force Moodley to resign were an “attempt to silence the voice that speaks against the rot of massive corruption that is co-ordinated and run by a few national office bearers”.
The timing of the “attempted suspension” was “to be questioned”, given that it came after the province nominated Mkhungo as its choice as secretary general to replace Mpanza, Mbambo said.
Mbambo said they would ignore the suspension and called for a special NEC meeting to deal with the issues and preparation of a national conference. Should this not happen, they would call a conference along with four other provinces and elect a caretaker leadership to run Sanco until a national conference was held.
In May Moodley’s lawyers wrote to Mpanza demanding minutes of the meeting at which he allegedly resigned, saying that the letter stating he had done so was “fraudulent”.
In the letter they accused Mpanza of opening bank accounts unlawfully and demanded that he hand over the records of all accounts he had operated as secretary general to Moodley.
Mpanza told Mail & Guardian that the suspensions stood and that Sanco would “act against continued ill-discipline”in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere.
Mpanza said the NEC had resolved to hold a forensic audit of its finances, which was taking place. He said the corruption allegations held no water.
“The decisions of the national office-bearers are valid and still stand,”he said.
Mpanza said the act of calling the press briefing was itself an “act of ill-discipline” because the province should have followed Sanco official channels rather than “running to the media in an act of desperation”.