Mavuso Msimang on his ANC resignation that wasn’t, Zuma and 2024 Election

Among many wise phrases attributed to Winston Churchill is one where he responded to a critic: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do madam?” ANC veteran and iconic anti-corruption campaigner Mavuso Msimang may have drawn on that advice after being widely criticised for withdrawing a strongly worded resignation from the political party he served for six decades. To the rational mind, however, while fuss surrounding the issue tarnished a stellar reputation, it also jolted the ANC into concrete action on corruption after decades of lip service. Msimang spoke to BizNews editor Alec Hogg.

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introduction
  • 01:36 – Resignation from ANC 
  • 08:21 – Public image and corruption allegations
  • 11:30 – Jacob Zuma’s announcement 
  • 13:53 – ANC split
  • 17:25 – Is previous Zuma support changing?
  • 19:31 – Solutions within the ANC
  • 23:22 – Conclusion

Listen here

An edited transcript of the interview by Alec Hogg with Mavuso Msimang


Alec Hogg: The upcoming sixth BizNews conference is just around the corner, with three months to go. Time is flying, especially in South Africa’s news cycle. Mavuso Msimang is one of our keynote speakers, and we’re eagerly anticipating his contribution. Today, we discussed Mavuso being in the news, as he has become the story.

Mavuso, you must have had a compelling reason for resigning from the ANC, especially after six decades, and then reversing that decision. I have a different perspective. It seems that, through your dedication to fighting corruption with Corruption Watch, where you served as chair, you achieved the seemingly impossible—ensuring the ANC won’t submit anyone with a criminal record or ties to the Zondo Commission.

You’ve accomplished something significant here. Was that the intention?

Mavuso Msimang: Thank you. The starting point is crucial. The straw that broke my 65-year relationship with the ANC was the issue of next year’s elections. It has serious implications for the country. We are facing what could be the most important election since 1994, with indications suggesting no party will win outright. The ANC will likely be the largest party, leading us into an era of coalitions.

My resignation was not calculated. Secretary General Mbalula’s unfavourable remarks led to an apology, and in that apology, he acknowledged the need to remove individuals with criminal records or ties to the Zondo Commission. This aligns with what the veterans have advocated for. Discussions ensued, and I was invited to ensure proper processes, preventing omissions and ensuring those who shouldn’t be on the list are removed.

I decided to join the veterans in this battle against corruption within the ANC. The urgency to address corruption issues and the lack of action since April raised concerns. We, the veterans, are now actively involved in ensuring the right steps are taken before the IEC closes the list opportunity.

The resolution, made in April, required individuals on the Zondo List to present themselves to the ANC’s Integrity Commission. Only five out of 97 have done so, highlighting a serious breach of organisational discipline. This delay prompted my decision to rejoin the ANC and contribute to the internal battle against corruption.

Alec Hogg: It seems like a rational decision with considerable merit. However, your public image has suffered, particularly on social media. Initially, Balula accused you of corruption and aligning with the opposition forces, insinuating payment. Although he retracted the accusation, people now perceive you as a flip-flopper. How did you carefully consider these implications, given their impact on your remarkable career and journey?

Mavuso Msimang: Indeed, it wasn’t a difficult decision at the moment. I recognised that my public image would take a hit, and explaining all the nuances would be challenging. The key difference before and after my resignation was the ANC’s public commitment to prevent such occurrences. To protect my image, I could have stayed outside, boasting about the agreement, but the veterans urged my involvement to ensure accountability.

Regarding consistency, they say it can be the virtue of an ass. Faced with the reality of corruption and coalition risks, I chose a path that aligns with a palatable choice. The ANC’s inclusion of corrupt individuals could jeopardise coalition partnerships. Despite the criticism, if we succeed in cleansing the list, it would be a significant victory.

Alec Hogg: Critics suggest the ANC is panicking, needing your return due to Jacob Zuma’s announcement shortly after. Was there any knowledge or discussion about Zuma’s move when you rejoined?

Mavuso Msimang: Not at all. Zuma’s move came after my return. I haven’t held a public position in the ANC, lacking Zuma’s following. However, the veterans serve as the organisation’s conscience. With the mishandling of my resignation and our focus on corruption, addressing it could elevate the ANC’s priorities. If genuine efforts are made to rid the party of corruption, traditional ANC voters might return, revitalising the party’s lost path of liberation.

Alec Hogg’s interview notes

Alec Hogg: I think the problem here goes back to Cyril Ramaphosa’s very first election, where there were 4,701 votes, and he won by 21. That’s less than half of one percentage point. Now, those who didn’t vote for him, at that time, were supporting the Zuma dynasty.

A number of them would be influenced by what their hero has decided very publicly. Is that not telling us that the ANC, going forward into the next election, is going to have a really, really difficult time even being the biggest party, given that if there were to be a split, which Zuma is certainly attempting to do, it would be a lot smaller?

Mavuso Msimang: Yeah, it could very well be the case. I’m guided by polls that are being done from time to time. Zuma has a following, and there is no doubt about it. I often wonder, though, whether you would really want a Zuma to get the numbers, which would consist of the very people that we are seeing as suspect having cost the ANC its following.

The many people who don’t support the ANC now or who do not vote for the ANC, they’re just fed up with the corruption that Cyril Ramaphosa, you know, post-Zuma has not been able to deal with. Some don’t go to other parties. That’s what the polls say, by the way. They don’t go to other parties. But I think if there was a renewed ANC, they would reconsider. We’re in the game of speculation, which I’m not strong on, but I think that perhaps the ANC would be better off in opposition benches if it doesn’t have people of integrity ruling it.

So I don’t know these Zuma supporters, what national spread they have. I know there’s a very strong case at the end following. I don’t know if it’s stronger than the ANC. The ANC, in their case, is not the strongest party in town. But I say risk that if you will. Try and get the right people in. If you lose the elections, go and take your rightful place as the opposition. All these people that are coming up that will not be in the ANC once it loses power because the opportunity to do the looting will be gone.

Apropos President Zuma, honestly, I think it’s a contradiction, a real contradiction on the part of the veterans to say no, please let him come in when, in fact, it’s the type of character that behaves like Jacob Zuma, who has been at pains initially to say that he would sit with that he has got his day in court to vindicate himself from association with a verdict that was passed on Schabir Shaik 15 years ago for corrupting Zuma. But Zuma was not in court. He has spent more than 10 years trying not to go to court. What’s in the ANC? What kind of ANC person still believes that’s the person to be?

Alec Hogg: Sure, we are heading towards a very turbulent future, but I believe at the end of that yellow brick road, things will settle down, and we might witness coalition politics, fostering more accountability, responsibility, and ultimately, a nation on the path to recovery. It might take some time, Mavuso, but that’s the impression I’m getting from our conversation today.

You’ve made the decision to be part of the solution within the ANC. As for Zuma, it seems to be a case of good riddance.

Mavuso Msimang: Absolutely. As veterans, we have an opinion on Zuma. The struggle against corruption within the ANC is spearheaded by veterans. Although we lack legal authority or ANC constitutional power to enforce change, as ethical elders, we expect people to respect our experience and integrity. Unfortunately, our 2016 call for a consultative conference to address escalating corruption went unheeded.

Last year, the Veterans League was reconstituted, appointing capable individuals, operating within the ANC. Despite our efforts, there was difficulty in securing meetings. The current situation prompted the realization that the ANC was ignoring opportunities presented by commissions like Zondo to rid itself of corrupt individuals.

I’m convinced that if the ANC removes corrupt elements, it could significantly improve its chances in upcoming elections. While my return to the ANC may not achieve all its goals, addressing corruption is critical for the stability of the country. The letter outlining corruption concerns remains, but the focus is on ensuring the ANC acts to rid itself of corrupt associations, potentially saving the country from instability. It wouldn’t be a bad ANC without those corrupt individuals, would it?

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