‘New Top Seven: the stench of graft is strong’

Ivo Vegter believes there will be absolutely no ‘renewal’ and very little ‘unity’ displayed by the new Top Seven of the ANC NEC. In the article below, which first appeared on the Daily Friend, he argues that nearly all those elected at the conference are tainted by allegations of some sort of graft or misconduct. – Sandra Laurence

ANC elective conference: ‘renewal’ denied

By Ivo Vegter

From the chaos and horse trading of the ANC’s elective conference, one message is brutally clear: Ramaphosa’s talk of ‘renewal’ is just that: hot air.

‘The theme of our conference is “Defend and advance the gains of freedom, unity, through renewal”. This theme calls on all of us as delegates to this conference to pursue with greater vigour the rebuilding and renewal of the ANC.’

Thus droned St Cyril somnolently, in a dreary speech an AI bot could have constructed from snippets of his previous monologues. A flicker of excitement went through the uninterested crowd when the unrepentant Looter-in-Chief, Jacob Zuma, made a grand entrance which derailed Ramaphosa’s ramblings for a while.

That Zuma was even welcome at the elective conference speaks volumes about the ANC’s inability to act decisively against corruption within its senior ranks. The only renewal that took place was to renew the tenures of a host of famous – or rather, infamous – ANC stalwarts, as they won the Top Seven posts on the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

No unity

There wasn’t much unity, either. Cyril Ramaphosa was re-elected as ANC president, but he only narrowly beat former health minister Zweli Mkhize. That Mkhize was able to stand for the position of ANC president, and gained almost enough support to win, is, like Zuma’s presence, a potent reminder of the party’s lack of commitment to any kind of ‘renewal’.

Mkhize was once a key ally of Zuma’s, and has been a power broker in the ANC throughout the era of state capture. He was forced to resign his position as minister of health in 2021 over what the Special Investigating Unit called his ‘improper’ and ‘unlawful’ involvement in the corrupt R150 million Digital Vibes contract. The ANC majority in Parliament conveniently exonerated him earlier this year, although he may yet face criminal charges.

The ANC’s new deputy president, Paul Mashatile, came up through the ranks of Gauteng politics. He has often been referred to as a leading member of the so-called ‘Alex mafia’, referring to a tenderpreneur network using their connections to win lucrative government contracts.

He has denied allegations that some R1.3 billion that was supposed to be spent on the Alexandra Renewal Project went missing under his watch when he was premier of Gauteng. He has escaped sanction for repeatedly hosting lavish dinners worth upwards of R100,000 at top Sandton restaurants for government employees while he was MEC of Finance in Gauteng.

A real Teflon Don, none of the allegations against him have stuck, but Ramaphosa will have to reckon with the most senior of Zweli Mkhize’s slate of candidates as his deputy in the ANC.

Jockeying for power

The ANC had promised to do away with slates and factions, but in the end the frenzied jockeying for political power proved stronger than good intentions, with a slate of Ramaphosa loyalists standing against a slate of Mkhize supporters.

Most of Ramaphosa’s slate were elected, with the exception of Oscar Mabuyane, who lost to Paul Mashatile, and Tina Joematt-Petterson, who lost to Nomvula Mokonyane for the position of first deputy secretary-general.

Gwede Mantashe, a high-ranking communist, was re-elected as ANC chairperson. Having been a member of the Top Six since 2007, this is hardly a sign of ‘renewal’. One assumes he won his election because he did such a splendid job failing to procure even a single one of the five to six gigawatts of generation capacity which the former Eskom CEO, André de Ruyter, said were urgently needed upon taking up his position in January 2020.

Being single-handedly responsible for all of the loadshedding of 2022 adds to a lustrous record Mantashe has accumulated since he first became ANC secretary-general in 2007. This includes a stalwart defence of Jacob Zuma in which he said that Zuma’s little dalliance with the Guptas was not the ANC’s business, and threatened disciplinary action against any ANC members of Parliament who dared to move against Zuma in a no confidence vote.

Earlier this year, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture referred evidence relating to Mantashe’s relationship with crooked security firm Bosasa for criminal investigation, saying there was a reasonable prospect this would uncover a corruption case against him.

Fix Fokol

‘Mr Fix Fokol’, Fikile Mbalula, another old pal and alleged kingmaker of Jacob Zuma’s, was elected as the ANC’s new secretary-general. Hopefully, this means his trail of destruction as head of the transport ministry will come to an end.

Mbalula has faced allegations of mismanagement and corruption from anonymous ‘ANC comrades’ within the Department of Transport, although both he and the ANC have dismissed these allegations as ‘malicious gossip’ peddled by ‘public servants who meddle in party politics’. He has also been embroiled in a lurid sex scandal, as well as facing questions over an expensive family trip to Dubai paid for by a sporting goods company that was doing business with the government while he was minister of sport.

ANC Women’s League coordinator Maropene Ramokgopa, who once swore she wasn’t a ‘henchman’ of Ramaphosa, was elected on the Ramaphosa slate to the newly created post of second deputy secretary-general – which turned the former Top Six into a Top Seven.

Gwen Ramokgopa, another Ramaphosa ally who felt the need to deny that she was not a ‘sniper’ for the president, was elected as the ANC’s treasurer-general. She is a former mayor of Tshwane, and deputy minister of health under Aaron Motsoaledi in Jacob Zuma’s first cabinet.

Tainted candidates

Perhaps the clearest signal that the ANC is not even trying this ‘renewal’ lark is the race for the position of first deputy secretary-general, in which Ramaphosa’s camp belatedly convinced Tina Joematt-Petterson to run against Mkhize ally Nomvula Mokonyane.

Both candidates were seriously tainted. Mokonyane, who won, is no stranger to controversy, having appointed disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni to oversee a merger between the Umgeni and Mhlathuze water boards in KwaZulu-Natal, against the advice of National Treasury.

As minister for water and sanitation, she was also responsible for delays and substantial cost escalation in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, reportedly to facilitate the participation of companies to which she was connected. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Like Myeni, Mokonyane has for years been on the payroll of corrupt security firm Bosasa, according to sworn testimony given at the Zondo Commission. Apparently, she can be bought for R50,000 a month.

Ramaphosa’s alternative is hardly any better, or newer, however. Joematt-Petterson is the former minister of energy in Jacob Zuma’s second cabinet, and before that minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in his first cabinet.

She has twice been found guilty by the former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, who recommended that president Zuma take disciplinary action against her ‘for her reckless dealing with state money and services resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, loss of confidence in the fisheries industry in SA and alleged decimation of fisheries resources in SA and delayed quota allocations due to lack of appropriate research’.

Needless to say, Zuma declined to do so. That Ramaphosa was happy to recruit her to help bolster his slate at the recent elective conference is all you need to know about St Cyril and his ‘renewal’ project. The stench of graft and misconduct will be strong in the offices of the new Top Seven of the ANC NEC. Of ‘renewal’, there will be no sign.

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