/ 16 March 2021

Mantashe calls for urgent caucus meeting ahead of Mkhwebane vote

Mining Industry Leaders At The 2018 Joburg Indaba
ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe has called an urgent meeting with the party’s parliamentary caucus ahead of a vote to allow for a committee to investigate public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office. (Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe has called an urgent meeting with the party’s parliamentary caucus ahead of a vote to allow for a committee to investigate public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office. 

The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, comes after secretary general Ace Magashule on Monday received at least five letters from caucus members expressing unhappiness with chief whip Pemmy Majodina’s media statement that the caucus had resolved to go ahead with the process on Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.

The top six held a meeting on Monday at which it was decided that Mantashe — together with Magashule — must quell growing tensions in the party caucus emerging from the imminent vote on whether Mkhwebane’s fitness should be investigated by parliament.

The Mail & Guardian has previously reported that in a letter to Magashule and Majodina, ANC MP Marvin Dirks stated the caucus is split on the matter.

In his correspondence, Dirks said two views were expressed in the caucus, adding that he found it “unfair that you released a statement based on one view that was expressed in the caucus”.

“Secondly, there were no extensive discussions in the caucus due to time constraints and many comrades who raised their hands did not get an opportunity, therefore, it is not true that the matter was extensively discussed, in fact towards the end chaos erupted over the matter and the caucus chair brought the matter abruptly to an end,” Dirks wrote.

He added that Majodina’s public statement failed to mention that the caucus resolved that she must seek a mandate from the ANC’s top six, through Magashule’s office.

In her statement, Majodina said the caucus resolved to support the process and acknowledged that it was not at a point to deal with the merits or demerits of the case. The caucus affirmed the rules of the National Assembly and how they regulate what the speaker can and cannot do in cases of heads of chapter nine institutions, such as the office of the public protector, she added.

In his own letter to Magashule on Monday, Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe said Majodina’s media statement supporting a vote to decide to endorse or reject the independent panel’s report was disingenuous, and did not reflect the scope of the discussion that took place in the caucus. 

Maphatsoe said that in having done so, Majodina had complicated and compromised a very simple and straightforward matter. 

“To participate in a vote about the acceptance or rejection of the report of the independent panel, is to participate in a process that is unfolding in support of the Democratic Alliance’s [DA’s] clearly stated intention to remove the public protector from office,” he said. 

“Thus, for any ANC MP to vote with the Democratic Alliance is contrary to rule 25.17.13 of the ANC constitution, which describes, with regards to the duties of members, office bearers and representatives, that an act of misconduct is: ‘Joining or supporting a political organisation, other than an organisation in alliance with the ANC, in a manner contrary to the aims, objectives and policy of the ANC’. 

“The DA is certainly not  an organisation that is in alliance with the ANC, and, therefore, to vote in a process that has been initiated, promoted and sponsored by the DA constitutes a flagrant contravention of our ANC constitution,” Maphatsoe added.

The ANC vote will serve as a bellwether for other proxy battles playing out in the party.

A simple majority of 50 plus one is needed for the report tabled by a panel comprising former Constitutional Court judge Bess Nkabinde and advocates Dumisa Ntsebeza and Johan de Waal to be passed, prompting parliament to begin a section 194 inquiry that could see Mkhwebane impeached.

If all 231 ANC members in the house heed party instructions, it will pass, despite the opposition of the Economic Freedom Fighters, which has not wavered in backing Mkhwebane.

The question is how many, if any, ANC MPs will break ranks and vote to protect the partisan Mkhwebane, whose repeated mistakes, disparaged by the courts and the three-person panel, served to shield those in the so-called radical economic transformation faction and further their agenda against President Cyril Ramaphosa.