/ 5 March 2021

North West premier in phone tapping claims

Close Up With North West Premier Job Mokgoro
North West premier Job Mokgoro has been ousted. (Photo by Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

“Rogue” intelligence operatives working for North West Premier Job Mokgoro allegedly tapped the phones of the provincial cabinet members and the interim ANC leaders in the province. The claims that Mokoro’s agents monitored phones and that he and legislature chief whip Paul Sebego ran a campaign to “liberate” North West from the interim provincial committee (IPC) appointed by Luthuli House are in a report by North West ANC coordinator Hlomane Chauke to the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

The 14-page report, and an appeal for the NEC to intervene, was submitted to the party’s top leadership on August 11 last year. Although several meetings are understood to have been held between the IPC and ANC secretary general Ace Magashule to discuss the matter, the party has thus far taken no action.

Mokgoro has denied the spying claims. 

Mokgoro, an ally of former premier and ANC North West chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, was appointed to replace Mahumapelo when the party dissolved the provincial executive committee (PEC) and recalled him in 2018. 

The IPC suspended Mokgoro’s ANC membership in December for allegedly voting with the Democratic Alliance in the legislature in defiance of his party leadership. A disciplinary process has started, and is expected to resume on March 19.

The interim committee headed by Chauke has faced fierce resistance from Mahumapelo’s supporters — led by Mokgoro — since it was appointed. It replaced the provincial task team that Luthuli House had appointed when it dissolved Mahumapelo’s PEC and consists of members of both the PEC and the provincial task team.  

It has also faced a revolt over dissolving the ANC’s four North West regions and replacing them with interim regional committees, with the fightback by Mahumapleo’s supporters in the regions going to court. 

The province’s municipalities have also been hit by protests and violence, which interim provincial committee members say are orchestrated and aimed at rendering the province ungovernable so that they will be recalled.

According to the report, leaked to Mail & Guardian this week, Mokgoro and Sebego have been at the centre of a campaign to undermine the IPC for causing “instability” in the province and its municipalities.

As part of this, claims had emerged that the phones of members of the IPC and the provincial cabinet were being tapped, allegedly by the two intelligence operatives who were working for Mokgoro.

Among those whose phones were allegedly being tapped was former MEC Nono Maloyi, who was asked by the IPC to lay criminal charges and had done so.

Chauke said further information had surfaced that the agents doing the bugging were interfering in the work of the ANC in the province. 

He added that a separate complaint had been received that the phones of ANC members in the Bojanala region were also being tapped as part of the “revolt”  against the interim regional committee.

“There was another complaint from some Bojanala regional structures, complaining about the very same people that were tapping or bugging comrade Nono Maloyi’s telephone. There was a revolt against those individuals by some structures in the Bojanala region,” Chauke said.

He added that at a cabinet meeting in July, a number of MECs had indicated they had “interactions” with Mokgoro’s alleged two spies. 

Mokgoro was confronted about the bugging claims at a meeting of the ANC officials in July. He said agents were brought to the province by Mahumapelo to boost intelligence capacity during the campaign to unseat him.

“Comrade Job Mokgoro did not explain their role within the province to be played by the said individuals and that was the reason the relationship started with the two individuals,” Chauke said.

“The information comrade Job Mokgoro shared with the party officials was that the quality of the information he received from the SAPS intelligence in the province was very weak. He lodged a complaint with the national minister and therefore he relied accurately on the information given by the two individuals because the state had failed to provide him with quality information,” Chauke said.

He said Mokgoro had not been able to explain who paid the salaries of the two agents, who were also allegedly involved in running a “call centre” in the Bojanala region whose role it was to support their chosen candidates at branch level ahead of the regional conference.

The report also accused Mokgoro of failing to consult the ANC before making key appointments to the civil service and public entities in the province and of attempting to reshuffle his cabinet without talking to either the ANC or its alliance partners.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to calls and messages from Mail & Guardian.

Kenny Moroleng, spokesperson for the IPC, said: “We will not comment on the contents of a leaked document. We present reports to the national leadership on a regular basis regarding the state of the ANC in the North West and on the state of governance in the province.”

Vuyisile Ngesi, spokesperson for Mokgoro, said the premier “categorically denies” the allegations of spying and of any wrongdoing. “The premier has no reason, whatsoever, to tap any person’s phones or intercept their communication.”

He said Mokgoro had a constitutional prerogative to appoint members of his cabinet, but had always done so in consultation with the leadership of the governing party.

“At no stage has the premier undermined any structure of the governing party.”