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27 Jun 2019 14:41
ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe. (Reuters)
ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe says Public Protector Busisiwe has taken on a “political role” by investigating donations to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for the party presidency ahead of its crucial 2017 elective conference.
He also responded to questions, by the Economic Freedom Fighters, about Public about Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who the party alleged was responsible for the resignation of senior executives at State Owned Companies.
Mantashe said executives were well paid and should be thick skinned enough to handle boardroom politics.
Responding to questions on the Public Protector from journalists on the sidelines of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) policy conference, Mantashe said there were seven candidates who contested the ANC poll, yet Ramaphosa has been singled out for investigation.
He added that this investigation was linked to a party and not a government matter. “If she is really interested in the campaigns in the party, which is not her jurisdiction… and is selective, then it is clear, you are playing a political role.”
This comes amidst reports that Mkhwebane has expanded the scope of her probe, into Ramaphosa’s R500,000 donation from controversial former services company Bosasa boss Gavin Watson, to include allegations of money laundering. The Sunday Times reported that she was investigation donations to his campaign in excess of R400-million, after scrutinising bank accounts linked to him.
Mkhwebane’s conduct has been under intense scrutiny since she delivered a report on the Absa/Bankcorp deal and recommended that Parliament amend the Constitution to expand the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank. The finding which has been set aside by the courts and has raised red flags over her fitness to hold office. Since then, a number of her other reports have been successfully challenged in court, including her report on the Vrede Dairy Farm project.
On Wednesday, SA Communist Party deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila alleged that Mkhwebane was being used by “rogue intelligence” operatives to destabilise the country. He also alleged that she was being used by ANC factions to reverse the outcome of the party’s Nasrec conference, in which Ramaphosa was elected to the helm of the party.
Mkhwebane has not taken kindly to the allegation, demanding in an opinion piece for the M&G, submitted on Thursday, that Mapaila prove his claim or face legal action,
Mantashe also came out in defence of Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan, who has been at the receiving end of Mkhwebane’s scrutiny and has been blamed by the EFF for the spate of resignations by senior executives in state owned entities. “Pravin Gordhan is the minister of public enterprises, he runs no public enterprise. In my portfolio, there are 14 entities, I do not run any of them.”
Mantashe was asked whether he felt Gordhan was responsible for the resignation of executives from state owned companies such as Eskom’s Phakamani Hadebe and SAA’s Vuyani Jarana.
His response was frank and brutal. “Executives are paid well to run these institutions… one must never look for scapegoats for your failures.”
It was the responsibility of the executives to run the institutions well and also to manage “boardroom” politics, he said. If they were not “thick skinned” enough to do this, they would “run all over” blaming others.
“When you are appointed as an executive and paid well for it, the assumption is that you have a deep understanding of boardroom politics,” he said.
The Nehawu policy conference concludes on Saturday with an address from Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu.
Natasha Marrian is Mail & Guardian's politics editor. Read more from Natasha Marrian
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