ANC mobile network plans fail
A plan to help the ANC win the national general elections next year is in jeopardy because of a row in Luthuli House over a multimillion-rand project meant to attract and win over new voters to the ruling party.
The ambitious plan was meant to attract thousands of people to a digital mobile network that would disseminate ANC news, content and information, and earn the party more than R10‑million a month.
Big names such as Pearl Thusi and Sho Madjozi of Huku fame were allegedly meant to promote the ANC’s mobile network, 1912 Mobile.
The Mail & Guardian has established that as early as April this year the ANC was presented with a proposal for a virtual mobile network, using Cell C. 1912 Mobile was to be set up and managed by Digital Broadway and Trading and Impepho Emhlophe Risk Managers.
The companies, owned by media personality Majota “Phat Joe” Kambule and Joseph Nkadimeng, respectively, presented the R13‑million proposal to the ANC’s election head, Fikile Mbalula.
According to their proposal, the ANC would launch 1912 Mobile in partnership with Cell C to disseminate “ANC news and information, content-based voice, data and text mobile services”.
By May, meetings had already been held with Cell C’s top brass, Mbalula and the ANC’s treasurer general, Paul Mashatile. A nondisclosure agreement (NDA), signed in June, confirmed Cell C as the preferred service provider.
But allegations of greed, litigation threats and claims of a conflict of interest threaten to derail the agreement.
Documents seen by the M&G show a breakdown of the shareholding of the project, with the project’s “brain”, Kambule, set to get 51%, Impepho 22%, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association 5%, other unknown entities 15% and 7% for the “Vatican”.
In communications between Nkadimeng and Kambule, ANC headquarters Luthuli House is code-named the “Vatican”.
This week Nkadimeng, who was one of the architects of the ANC’s 2016 covert “war room” campaign, confirmed the 1912 Mobile project but said there was an impasse between the parties.
The war room project, which siphoned off millions of rand to fund a project to sabotage opposition parties, also cost the party’s general manager, Ignatius Jacobs, his job.
According to Nkadimeng, the current impasse was sparked by the involvement of the ANC’s election committee risk manager, Bongani Mbindwane.
“Bo [Mbindwane] was introduced by Mbalula to us as the risk manager for the elections and then he was now bringing his own company, Zoetic, so that he can benefit from the deal. So he [Mbindwane] went to Cell C to negotiate on behalf of the ANC without Impepho, even though it was Impepho that brought it to the ANC,” said Nkadimeng.
He added that he was now considering legal action against the ANC if it launched 1912 Mobile.
“Impepho is going to litigate unless the impasse is resolved. It is unfortunate that both greed and arrogance superseded the humble intentions of Digital [Broadway] and Impepho activism to promote the ANC’s election manifesto and campaign. It is also unfortunate that this has compromised the integrity and reputation of the ANC election committee chairperson, comrade Fikile Mbalula, who has keenly supported [the platform],” said Nkadimeng.
Mbindwane denied any conflict of interest and referred further questions to the ANC.
“I do not know what you are talking about — please talk to Pule Mabe or Fikile Mbalula or Paul Mashatile. They speak for the ANC. I just work there now and again,” he said.
“My work in the ANC enables me to continue as a businessperson in general and a researcher alongside my ANC activities. I am able to do all three professionally without any conflict of interest arising. If ever it were, this is ventilated accordingly within structures,” he said.
“There are people who have made it a career to milk the ANC and make their entire living off it. This must stop.”
Mbalula denied that the project had reached an impasse and said nothing had been agreed on with Impepho.
“He [Nkadimeng] is basically exposing us to unnecessary scrutiny in an election campaign. There is nothing that is being stalled. Whether it moves ahead will depend on … time because it’s a huge project and we are not comfortable to talk about it. He is exposing it to the media because he’s got financial interests. He basically thinks he is being knocked down. I don’t think it is proper to discuss Nkadimeng and his frustrations and his money-making schemes,” said Mbalula.
He dismissed Nkadimeng’s claims that Mbindwane — Mbalula’s former special adviser when he was the police minister — was conflicted and that he had tried to negotiate a deal with Cell C for himself.
“Nkadimeng has got many issues, which we don’t need to discuss with the media. There is no impasse; he’s got issues himself which are monetary. Everything that comes to us as a proposal, we don’t just pass it, we scrutinise it, we look at what are the interests of the ANC. There is no conflict whatsoever,” Mbalula said.
Cell C spokesperson Karin Fourie said: “These discussions are confidential and subject to NDAs, which prevent us from commenting.”
According to a source at Luthuli House, there was an instruction from the top echelons of the ANC that all ties should be cut with Nkadimeng.
“The ANC did not licence … It would never have licensed to him due to his past and present issues including VBS [Mutual Bank] involvement and taking of former TG [treasurer general Zweli] Mkhize to court and other various matters,” said the source.
Nkadimeng has not been publicly linked to the VBS scandal. But he is part of a court action in which a claim has been made against fuel distribution company Afric Oil for a facilitation fee for the company to get a R210-million loan from the Public Investment Corporation. The Sunday Times reported that Mkhize was named in the court papers over an alleged R4.5-million kickback for helping Afric Oil get the loan.
Kambule did not respond to requests for comment.
According to his letters to Nkadimeng, they had planned to connect “one million new customers” and generate R10-million in cash “per month for the ANC”.
“The network will be more nimble and more in touch with the customer than conventional networks by offering a connection to the ANC, and affordable service with relevant news and media entertainment services,” one letter reads.
Kambule and Nkadimeng had forecast that, because 2019 was an election year, 1912 Mobile would connect up to 100 000 customers a month.