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31 May 2019 00:00
David Mabuza’s integrity commission appearance laid bare the nature of the office of the secretary general. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
The move by ANC deputy president David Mabuza has exposed the cracks in the governing party’s renewal project and the self-serving farce that has come to characterise “unity” in the governing party.
Its integrity commission was established to clean up the tarnished image of the party and much debate and mudslinging preceded its national conference at Nasrec in 2017 that gave the body more teeth.
But the attempt has come to naught, with the commission caught in the midst of the ANC’s never-ending factional morass, the ineptitude of its engine room — the office of the secretary general — and the fact that some of its top leaders are tainted by allegations of malfeasance.
Mabuza last week exposed all of this when he postponed his swearing-in at Parliament and then appeared before the commission in a bid to clear his name.
His explanation, that if he defied the structure it would allow other members of a more lowly station to do the same, makes sense.
Whether he has political motives for the move or not, which I do believe he has, is irrelevant given the immediate point that was made. His appearance before the integrity commission on Friday night resulted in a string of ANC leaders doing the same.
It is a positive move given the disdain with which reports of the integrity commission were treated in the past.
What Mabuza’s move also exposed is the nefarious role played by the office of the ANC secretary general when it comes to the list process and the integrity commission report.
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has consistently been at pains to defend the party’s list process that was run by his office.
But the integrity commission report flagged serious flaws in the list process.
Magashule’s office is also alleged to have received the integrity commission’s report and simply sat on it without giving it to any of the affected leaders in time for them to state their case about the allegations against them before the parliamentary list was finalised.
What is also telling is the fact that when Mabuza wrote to Magashule to inform him of the decision to postpone his swearing-in, the secretary general is understood to have penned a hasty response urging him to meet with the integrity commission as soon as possible.
Magashule’s office, according to the integrity commission’s terms of reference seen by the Mail & Guardian, is meant to provide administrative support to the integrity commission.
This means it is supposed to be the go-between for the commission and ANC members and leaders, setting up meetings and providing assistance to the structure.
It is obviously not in Magashule’s interest for the commission’s work to succeed because he may one day be called to appear before it.
On Wednesday, ANC spokesman Pule Mabe issued a statement defending Magashule’s handling of the matter, dismissing media reports and party insiders who raised concern over his role.
The secretary general’s office of the ANC is the real point of concern for President Cyril Ramaphosa in the Mabuza saga, despite the hysteria that the deputy president was playing a political game.
He may well have been playing such a game, but the key political takeout of the saga is that the office of the secretary general of the ANC remains a law unto itself.
Natasha Marrian is Mail & Guardian's politics editor. Read more from Natasha Marrian
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