‘The premier and I are good,’ insists Babalo Madikizela after resigning

Former Eastern Cape member of the executive council public works Babalo Madikizela — who fought and lost against Oscar Mabuyane for the post of ANC provincial chairperson — says he is leaving his department in a better state than it was when he arrived.

Madikizela announced that he had resigned from his position in government just months after he lost to Mabuyane in May. The two men, who were once allies, locked horns earlier this year during campaigning for a provincial leader. 

Madikizela, a businessman who has amassed considerable wealth in the Eastern Cape, failed to make it into the provincial executive committee, prompting his Alfred Nzo region  to co-opt him to its regional executive. 

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Thursday, the ANC leader denied that his loss in the ANC race for provincial chair had caused him to resign, saying he had chosen to leave as things were starting to fall apart with his business ventures. 

“The premier did not want me to resign, he has been literally refusing,” he said.

Madikizela said he had never made a proper transition from his role as a businessman to politics, an omission which affected his personal interests. 

“I never wanted to be in government,” he said.

The powerful Eastern Cape player is still someone to watch as the ANC heads to its national conference in December. Although he suffered a bruising in the provincial conference, he and allies Teris Ntutu, Luyolo Nqakula and Xolile Nkompela still have a big power base in the province, which could ensure that they have a seat during horse trading.

Posters bearing Madikizela’s face and suggesting that he was being lobbied for a position in the ANC top six have also surfaced but he denied any knowledge of this, saying he had no personal ambition in that regard. The M&G understands that instead, Madikizela and his allies are hoping that Phumullo Masualle will find expression in the top brass. 

“I’ve never had political ambitions, I’ve always tried to focus on business and my activism in my locality,” he said. 

Madikizela prides himself on having run a “tight ship” in the Eastern Cape public works department. Although he had been unable to finish the job, he said the province was the only one in the country that deliberately sought to use state property to attract investment and new entrants to the sector. 

“We had a property summit where we called everyone across the country to come to invest in Eastern Cape; there was much excitement. Part of why we did that, we identified that we were paying millions in rates to the municipality for properties that are not generating anything,” he said.

“The majority of state property in the country is dilapidated and we continue to pay rates to the municipality. We were paying more than R400-million per annum of taxes but not collecting anything. We felt, let’s use properties to introduce new entrants in the sector, and use properties for revenue generation so that we stop paying rates for properties that are not being used. We wanted properties to pay for themselves, we generate employment and help new and young entrance into the business sector.” 

One such example is the Amatola Sun Hotel in Bhisho, which the Daily Dispatch said has been closed for decades but is now undergoing a R3-billion revamp. Madikizela said the department had slashed R50-million from its rental costs by revamping and using state buildings. He said the provincial government also unbundled projects and awarded contracts to local contractors who had complained that tenders were being awarded to businesses from other provinces. 

But Madikizela leaves with a stain to his name. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is still to decide whether to prosecute him and Mabuyane on allegations that they misappropriated municipal funds.

A report from suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that Madikizela instructed Lonwabo Bam of Mthombeni Projects Construction to submit an invoice to the Mbizana municipality for R1.1-million, which later changed hands and landed in his account and that of Mabuyane.

But Madikizela insisted to the M&G on Thursday: “There was no money that was misused … I’m not sure how the NPA would arrest us.”

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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