The confession by Deputy Correctional Services Minister Thabang Makwetla during an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting that he received a more than R1-million cash bribe, and returned it to an unknown businessman six weeks later, will be at the centre of debates during next week’s NEC meeting.
Supporters of Ace Magashule are angry about President Cyril Ramaphosa’s attack on the ANC secretary general (SG) this week over rumours of his involvement in meetings to plot the president’s removal. They are planning to use Makwetla’s confession as an example of the selective persecution of those ANC leaders who did not support Ramaphosa’s bid to become party president last December. Makwetla is known as a Ramaphosa supporter.
Makwetla’s spokesperson Ntime Skhosana said: “If anything, that’s an ethical stand worthy to be celebrated by upright activists and society in general, notwithstanding the fact that the source’s account is riddled with inaccuracies.”
Skhosana specifically questioned the six weeks it allegedly took Makwetla to return the money.
“In respect of party discipline, we prefer not to express unauthorised comments on internal party discussions. We prefer you contact the office of the SG for comment on ANC meetings,” said Skhosana.
Makwetla, a vocal critic of former president Jacob Zuma, declined to comment further, saying he was not authorised to speak about internal party matters.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.
The pro-Magashule group will also use Ramaphosa’s inaction against senior ANC politicians who benefited financially from facility management company Bosasa as evidence of the selective persecution of ANC leaders.
The company, now known as African Global Operation, has reportedly installed high-end CCTV cameras, alarm systems and electric fencing for ministers Gwede Mantashe, Nomvula Mokonyane and Makwetla since 2013. ANC MP Vincent Smith reportedly received R670 000 in cash from the company, which scored more than R10‑billion in government tenders over the past few years. Smith has since stepped aside as chair of three parliamentary committees pending an investigation.
This camp will also raise concerns at the NEC meeting about the use of state resources to conduct a clandestine investigation against the former Free State premier.
Earlier this year, Magashule found himself in hot water when the Hawks raided his former offices in Bloemfontein in connection with the Estina dairy farming project. The project, which was intended to empower black farmers, saw the Free State government pour R220‑million into the initiative, with only about R2-million being spent on the farmers. The rest is alleged to have been siphoned to various individuals including the Gupta brothers.
Last week, fresh allegations were made linking Magashule’s Free State administration to the Guptas during the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. Treasury employee Jan Gilliland testified that the Free State government had channelled R79.3-million to Gupta-owned media companies during Magashule’s term.
This week, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), known Zuma supporters, called on Ramaphosa to establish a commission of inquiry into Bosasa.
MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus said the fight against corruption, including any undue influence or attempted influence in the allocation of government tenders, must be seen to be universal and without fear or favour.
“Any impression that the establishment of judicial commissions to investigate these matters could be selective in order to target certain politicians, and let others off the hook, in pursuance of certain political interests and agendas must be avoided at all costs,” he said.
Speaking at trade union federation Cosatu’s 13th national congress on Monday, Ramaphosa had accused those who “meet in dark corners” and plot to divide the ANC of being counter-revolutionaries.
“Those who want to divide the ANC, what agenda are they serving? Because coming out of Nasrec, we all held one agenda of unity, renewal, jobs and transforming our economy. So if you are going to divide the ANC tell us what your agenda is,” Ramaphosa said.
“Comrades, this is a call for unity. And those who are engaging in acts to disunite our people and divide our people must be exposed,” he added.
Magashule, with Zuma and former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, has been accused of holding a secret meeting to discuss a plot against Ramaphosa.
But Magashule’s supporters told the Mail & Guardian this week that he was surprised when Ramaphosa publicly attacked him.
“He was taken aback because he was under the impression that Ramaphosa and the rest of the top six officials understood his explanation about the meeting with Zuma,” said an NEC member close to Magashule.
The member said the pro-Magashule group would in turn accuse Ramaphosa’s supporters in the NEC of holding secret meetings to plot his downfall. “We have raised concerns about these secret meetings before in previous NEC, but no one spoke out about that in public before.”
A provincial leader, who was part of the Durban meeting, told the M&G he was aware of some secret meetings held by the Ramaphosa camp.
“They are convening meetings talking about lists. They released a list in Mpumalanga where they marginalised everybody else. It’s what they are doing every day. Now they were shocked to discover that the meeting was in the best interest of the organisation more than the plot for the downfall of Ramaphosa. The meeting was about strengthening the ANC campaign. It is them who are plotting the ousting of the SG.
“We only met because of the developments [about the NEC decision to disband the provincial executive committee] in North West. If we cannot give guidance to the comrades of North West, maybe they were going to take the back seat when it comes to elections. It [the meeting] was to give them comfort,” said the leader.
But a provincial leader sympathetic to Ramaphosa said the president’s supporters would push for action against Magashule.
“If he [Magashule] says he went there to meet Zuma, why was Supra Mahumapelo there? Pictures do not lie. He must explain to us what was Supra doing there,” said the leader.
A second NEC member sympathetic to Ramaphosa said the president was within his rights to condemn the secret meeting between Magashule and Zuma.
“He [Ramaphosa] is the CEO of the ANC. He can raise any issue at any time. You can’t go to Cosatu conference and not raise such an important matter. The ANC conference in December resolved on organisational renewal. If there is any attempt that seeks to undermine that, the president must step in,” said the NEC member.