ANC COVID-19 corruption: A call to step aside – a sincere call or factional hot air?

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By: Clyde Ramalaine

The African National Congress finds itself in more than turbulent waters.  After 26 years of trusted to lead SA at a political level and as the hope of change for the victims of apartheid, it has turned out to be the undeniable face of corruption, riddled by incessant claims of state capture and everything that resembles avarice and greed in which its politicians have consistently placed personal interest in pre-eminence.

The ANC thus lives through the decisions and choices it made on the role of capital in determining its governance since around 1992. Recently its NEC engaged considerations of a call for leaders fingered in corruption to step aside.
We herewith attempt understanding this ‘step-aside’ call against the backdrop that allegations have always been levelled against many in ANC top leadership and what this means if this call of stepping aside is actualized. Will there even be an ANC leadership if all against whom accusations are levelled are compelled to steps aside? Is this call therefore sustainable? We will highlight publicly known allegations levelled against ANC leadership less in glee or judgment but with an emphasis of the National Office Bearers. Raising these allegations by no means purports a verdict of guilt but purely a citing of publicly known claims to underscore the dialectical tension between allegations and this call of ‘stepping-aside’ as expedient, convenient, and factional since it disregards the bigger reality of a history allegations.
The current unfolding of recent ANC corruption allegations and scandal plays out in a time of a global health crisis, better understood in COVID-19. Yet this as new corruption as heinous as it is given the crisis of the pandemic, stands both in singular definition but also as another piece of the embarrassing puzzle of how capital corrupted what was once considered a glorious movement. Over the last 10 days we have heard of revelations on billions that were ill-earned, miss-spent detailing utter corruption in which proximity to political power afforded some an unfair advantage to access to State coffers in business opportunities. We heard of the presidential spokesperson Khuselo Diko her husband Inkosi Madzakane 11 Diko, the MEC of Health Bandile Masuku his wife Loyiso who is an MMC in the City of Johannesburg intertwined in an R125million PPE tender that Sunday Independent’s Piet Rampedi unveiled.

A sub-narrative quickly emerged of the children and spouses of ANC leaders benefitting from the COVID-19 R500bn allocation. This sub-narrative as was expected sought to distinguish again the media created natural ‘demons’ and ‘angels’ defining ANC politicians. We saw how the Sunday Times and Daily Maverick among others preferred to downplay the subject of President Ramaphosa’s direct accountability [since he was warned on the expenditure of this money] instead opting for the easy and softer targets of the Secretary-General of the ANC Magashule’s sons and the children of Nomvula Mokonyane as the primary targets of corruption accusation. It became the cardinal focus of news – platforms and even some in the NEC, when they are silent on those close to the president which includes among others his son and spokesperson. The DA leader John Steenhuizen also joined this bandwagon in choice singular reference of Magashule and Mokonyane while he remained silent on those associated with the president. This choice to interpret what is unfolding lends itself to support the media created narrative of portraying some as demons and others as angels.
We also learned of heated debates in the most recent NEC when the subject of ANC leaders being encouraged to step aside emerged. We learned that this campaign was led by the CR17 group, which has not relinquished its aim to have Ace Magashule removed. The politics for this can be understood, since Ramaphosa is pressurized to distance himself from corruption and be seen to do something about it in his capacity as president of the ANC. We involuntarily remember the slew of opinion pieces among others penned by Max Du Preez and Peter Bruce respectively who long defined Ramaphosa’s true action on corruption as only measurable in him dealing with his equally elected Secretary-General.
This step-aside move in the NEC as aimed at Magashaule was torpedoed by among others Dakota Legoete, who reminded NEC members pointing a finger at some, when all from the President have allegations levelled against them is simply disingenuous. It is a given that if ‘stepping aside’ based on allegations is the new call, all current serving ANC-NOB leaders (and that is all six of them), many critical NEC members including provincial leadership[s] and municipality leaders, will have to step aside.

The call of leaders stepping aside, informed by allegations, appears as blatantly political as its factional. It is a given that Cyril Ramaphosa, David Mabuza, Ace Magashule, Gwede Mantashe, Jessie Duarte and Paul Mashatile all have allegations to varying degrees levelled against them. We are also mindful that an allegation is an allegation until it is tested in a court of law, and if then proven becomes a record for or against the alleged accused.
An honest assessment of ANC leadership across the board not from today but since the advent of the democratic era chronicles a long narrative of allegations levelled against leaders. At times some are conveniently ahistorical in their approach to understanding the current reality. There are too many allegations to cite of ANC leaders, therefore, this opinion piece only looks at a few allegations that are in public spaces. The intention is not to tarnish, render anyone guilty or make any findings against anyone but to underscore the claims of allegations as not unique to a convenient or specific scripted group some seek to render as the singular culprits. On another level, the intention is to show how problematic this thinking of stepping aside presents itself when applied to all and not to a few some would love to see gone informed by factional interest dictate.
One of the things that plagues ANC leaders is the reality that leaders often have files on each other and use these as and when it suits them for political ends.

Allegations levelled by Popo Molefe against the predecessor NOB members
To start, the most recent version of witnessing before the State of Capture Commission as led by Popo Molefe fingered the entire former ANC National Office Bearers of the ANC [JG. Zuma, C. M Ramaphosa, G.S. Mantashe, B. Mbete, Zweli L. Mkhize and Yasmine J. Duarte ]. According to Molefe the entire previous NOB stands accused of having turned a deaf ear when he apprised them of the corruption at PRASA. The current NOB comprise at least three former members.

Jacob Zuma Allegations
Jacob Zuma remains arguably the most publicly accused ANC leader in the last 26 years. Zuma have accusations levelled against him for corruption among others in the Shabir Shaik corruption case. He stands accused of having benefitted from the arms deal, state capture claims where he along with the infamous Gupta family are fingered by some as already guilty while no court has ruled on such guilt. Allegations of state capture with him as the central figure is often alleged by even ANC members, opposition party leaders. Zuma stands accused of having destroyed the institutional justice infrastructure as we often hear from Ramaphosa among others who tell us he is busy rebuilding the institutional infrastructure that state capture destroyed.

Zuma is currently in court for the arms-deal corruption which is a 15-year-old case, He remains for, some in the ANC, who detest him the face of corruption, thus the allegations do not go away but continues to flare up. We saw it recently when Mavuso Msimang [who often sound like he is waging a personal fight against Zuma] aired his views on Zuma speaking at the late Andrew Mlangeni’s funeral. Zuma like many in the ANC holds that since no court ruled against him, he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Ramaphosa Allegations
Ramaphosa stands accused of his role in the Marikana massacre for which he hitherto has not owned up. He was on the board of directors of Lonmin platinum mine during the workers strike in August 2012. His call for ‘concomitant action’ will forever place him on the scene of the crime of Wonderkop where 34 black miners died amidst a hail of bullets. Post his ANC presidential election victory he has been fighting tooth and nail to protect the identities of his funders in his over R1bn CR17 campaign that made him president in December 2017. It remains a cause of great concern that Ramaphosa remains adamant not to be transparent with SA. This leads to the question what does the president have to hide and who must he repay? Without that essential information provided speculation will inevitably continue to run rife, and it is not unreasonable to believe that some of the huge largesse of COVID-19 tenders to big White Monopoly Capital conglomerates, such as BIDVEST, are part of Ramaphosa repaying those who have so substantially invested in him. Ramaphosa stands accused of being the poster boy of white interest in which it is claimed he was captured.

Maybe Mondli Gungubela [who recently lamented ANC leaders who hide behind the law and neglect ethics] must help Ramaphosa understand what he means with this ethics and law enclaves of some politicians in which they defend the legal rights of their families, friends to participate in opportunities that the state offers. Using Gungubela’s logic it is self-evident that it could be argued that it does not matter to Ramaphosa how he is perceived in lack of transparency since he remains obsessed to legally protect the identity of his funders when he as a leader is supposed to inspire trust in being ethically sound. With the most recent COVID-19 corruption and his key staff member spokesperson Khuselo Diko and his son fingered should Ramaphosa step aside?

David Mabuza allegations
The deputy president of the ANC and South Africa in his capacity as Premier of Mpumalanga province have had several publicly known allegations levelled against him over an elongated period. Mabuza in 2010 opened a case with police alleging R14million in cash was stolen from his farmhouse.  This claim was refuted and he later claimed only R4million was stolen. The allegation levelled against Mabuza range from corruption to political killings.
In order to deal with some of these claims, Mabuza insisted to appear before the Integrity Commission of the ANC to clear his name. We also know that the Integrity Commission holds it never cleared him. For some, his appearance was nothing but a tactical move that checkmated the President and the Integrity Commission since a cabinet needed to be finalized and Ramaphosa was forced to wait to include him. We have read how a New York Times article engages a slew of allegations against Mabuza and as such questioned his role in governance against corruption. Hence the deputy president remains a man that has serious allegations levelled against him.  Should he step aside?

Gwede Mantashe – Allegations
In 2015, the Daily Dispatch released an exposé that a company linked to the wife and son of Mantashe was awarded a tender to build toilets in the Amathole district municipality of the Eastern Cape. The report implicated Mantashe and Lindiwe Zulu’s sons in an R631-million tender to a company named Siyenza to build 66 000 toilets in the Amathole District Municipality. Mantashe’s wife Nolwandle was also linked to the company. The public protector in 2019 found the following, “I found that the allegation that there were irregularities in the awarding of the tender for the supply, delivery and installation of VIP toilet top structures by the municipality was substantiated. The allegation that political influence played a role in the award of the contract was unsubstantiated.” Mantashe family stood accused in these allegations as beneficiaries of the toilet scandal.
We also know that Mantashe among others is fingered for having benefitted from security upgrades to his properties as facilitated by the questionable BOSASA company who benefitted in billions from the state coffers. Mantashe throughout was vocal in defence of family members of politicians be allowed to participate in the economy and not disqualified. Should Mantashe step aside?

Ace Magashule Allegations
The Secretary-General of the ANC, Ace Magashule equally has had several allegations levelled against him. Some of these emanate from his tenure as Premier of the Free State. Among these allegations are included the investigations conducted by the Public Protector and the Hawks respectively on claims of corruption in the now infamous Estina Diary and Gupta saga. Magashule in this season while not in public office has his children mentioned as beneficiaries of Free State PPE tenders for respectively R2million. One could also mention other allegations levelled against Magashule. Should Magashule step aside because his sons benefitted from PPE contracts?

Zweli Mkhize – Allegations
Mkhize has allegations levelled against him by some in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province including his comrades. Yet the strongest of accusations levelled against him among others came from the former CEO of PRASA, Lucky Montana. Montana in his appearance at the Parliamentary Inquiry in January 2018 was emphatic that Mkhize demanded 10% of the R465m that was the first payment due to Swifambo Rail Leasing. According to Montana when he refused Mkhize threatened to go to court but failed to. Montana also informed the Inquiry that Mkhize along with Pravin Gordhan wanted Montana and Sfiso Buthelezi to cancel the R53 billion tender awarded to Gibela Rail Consortium for the design, manufacture, supply and maintenance of 600 modern commuter trains to replace the entire fleet of Metrorail. According to Montana Mkhize and Gordhan wanted their preferred companies to win the tender. We will remember that Mkhize never appeared before the Parliamentary Inquiry which was the correct platform. Montana in his upcoming State of Capture Commission will likely repeat these allegations against Mkhize. Should the call not be for Mkhize to step aside?

Paul Mashatile Allegations
The Treasurer General of the ANC and former Gauteng Premier, Paul Mashatile has had intermittent and periodic allegations of corruption levelled against him. Mashatile faced serious allegations levelled against him since the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP). Mashatile’s daughter worked for Business Connexion a company that won two tenders with the provincial government. He was however cleared by the province’s integrity commissioner for conflict of interest. He was accused of being the kingpin of the GSSC corruption.
He stood accused of allegations of corruption and impropriety in the PIC made against him regarding the Karan Beef transaction in There have also been persistent and serious allegations against Mashatile about his role, and that he handsomely benefitted, in the establishment of the CNBC Africa Head Office in Sandton, when he was MEC for Finance and Economic Affairs. The close relationship between Mashatile and CNBC co-founder Ravesh Wahi has raised many concerns and a source of allegations levelled. Should Mashatile not step down?

Jessie Duarte Allegations
Back in 1998 the Mail and Guardian revealed that she as then MEC of Gauteng MEC of Safety provided them with the fake document to try and clear her name. The Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC, Yasmine J. Duarte was seen by some in the ANC under the Zuma era as part of the corruption crowd. We recall how she was booed by the COSATU crowd who wanted to send a message to Jacob Zuma. Duarte publicly accused Pravin Gordhan of being behind a campaign to vilify and denigrate here her and family.
Her children stood accused for their role in being associated with Des Van Rooyen among others, Van Rooyen who had a brief stint as Minister of Finance in the mainstream media led narrative make up part of the scripted media demons. Should Duarte step aside?

Enoch Godongwana – Chairperson of Economic Development Committee – Allegations
Interesting enough it is claimed that Derek Hanekom and Enoch Godongwana seconded the proposed Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki be roped in to lead the team of those tasked to investigate the current corruption levelled against the COVID-preneurs.
Yet it does not take much research to find nagging allegations levelled against Godongwana that stems from his era as MEC economic affairs in the Eastern Cape. If the case therefore for stepping aside is consistent can Godongwana continue to serve? Should Godongwana not long ago have stepped aside?

Thabo Mbeki Allegations
For many years there were claims and allegations of an Arms Deal corruption in which the key player was Thabo Mbeki. We know that the likes of ANC MP Andrew Feinstein resigned from parliament as he claimed led by his convictions on the wrong the ANC leadership and Government engaged in with what is considered a corrupt arms deal. While several commissions instituted es by both Mbeki and Zuma respectively delivered no result, it cannot be denied that allegations stood and remains until this day.
Separate from this some have over a long period questioned the role or not in the economic benefit of his spouse he may have played. People have asked why the ANC never questioned the wealth status of Zanele Mbeki who is considered the second wealthiest black woman in SA. Understanding how this wealth was attained devoid of the role of her husband as ANC politician, office bearer and deputy president and later president for two terms. Why would Mbeki be qualified to preside over others when he has his own allegations?

Kgalema Motlanthe allegations
Motlanthe that has been advanced by some in the most recent NEC meeting as one to lead investigations of corruption equally had allegations levelled against him. Similarly, the current spouse of Kgalema Motlanthe in her previous life was a personal assistant to Matthews Phosa. Gugu Mtshali the now spouse of Motlanthe emerged as a millionaire when some alleged, she was merely holding the bucket for Motlanthe. This by itself raised long-standing questions where some are considered clean when there have always been questions on their role or not in the economic benefit of their spouses understood in the case of Mbeki and Gugu Mtshali, the current spouse of Motlanthe.

Mtshali’s giant leap from the position of a PA to the boardroom has generated a variety of scandals since she stands accused as one who became a multimillionaire through the help of the Guptas and the role of Motlanthe who was then Secretary General.

Let us, not forget the Oil-gate scandal in which Sandi Majali died in strange circumstances. For some, there is still no clarity about whether Majali’s death in the Sandton Quatermain Hotel on the 25th of December 2010 was suicide, or more sinister. Serious allegations abound that Majali funded, through his company Imvume Management, both the ANC and Motlanthe personally, during the time that he was the Secretary-General of the ANC. Imvume had won large oil allocations from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq after Majali travelled to Baghdad together with the then top Luthuli House officials Smuts Ngonyama, Mendy Msimang and Kgalema Motlanthe. PetroSA paid R15 million to Imvume in December 2003 as an “advance” on a shipment of oil condensate. Within days Imvume allegedly transferred R11 million to the ANC, and smaller amounts too, among others, a brother of the then Minister of Minerals and Energy Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka who later became Deputy President of South Africa as appointed by Thabo Mbeki. Should Motlanthe be trusted to be a part of any team to investigate others when he has allegations against him?  Can he and Mbeki ever be fair against those they long have expressed reservations on?

One could easily highlight the same of ANC provincial and municipal leaders and thus detail a slew of allegations swirling around as ventilated. It is important to accept that these are all allegations, and, in many instances, no court has ruled on any of them while in other instances commissions may have cleared some. The facts are the allegations persist regardless of clearance by a commission.
However, these are allegations that if the current narrative is applied warrant leadership to step aside if they serious to put the SA and the ANC first. The aforementioned, therefore, confirms the call to step aside as advanced in this season as premised on allegations is not consistently applied but rather advanced from the political vantage and interest of a group against another group, this while South Africa has long concluded the ANC is corrupt not from 2020 or 2008 but from whenever capital before the dawn of democracy infiltrated it and that decadence increasingly shows.

The fact that the ANC with these allegations against its leaders over time remain entrusted to lead has little do with people’s confidence but instead the pathetic state of South African opposition parties that cannot capitalize on a very weak and corrupt ANC.

While the full extent of corruption as levelled is not yet known, lists appeared of for example Gauteng Companies that won tenders or were extended contracts to provide PPE goods. We must condemn this with the loudest voice and disgust we can show, yet we must ask shall we entertain this convenient snapshot as if in a solitary setting. Surely the probing should be far wider and deeper, and over an extended historical period.
Surely if we are serious about corruption no stone should be left unturned. Investigations should be non-partisan, not driven by factional interests, and truth without fear or favour for anyone. Anything less will dismally fail to rescue the ANC from the terrible, and potentially fatal hole, that it has meticulously over time dug itself into.