A political solution that killed

2012-03-10 11:34

Some of the most upsetting evidence heard by a South African court after the advent of democracy was ­delivered last week in the North West, largely unnoticed by the mainstream media.

The testimony that ANC councillor Alfred Motsi gave under oath in the Mahikeng High Court should send shivers down the spines of all peace-loving South Africans.

Motsi testified against former Rustenburg mayor Matthews Wolmarans and his bodyguard, Enoch Matshaba, who are accused of gunning down former councillor and trade unionist Moss Phakoe in his driveway after returning home from an ANC meeting in Rustenburg in March 2009.

Motsi’s evidence is yet to be challenged.

The most chilling part of the case against Phakoe’s alleged killers is not the murder, but the events preceding his untimely death. Motsi’s version provided fascinating, yet frightening, insights into how the ANC under President Jacob Zuma is “dealing” with ­corruption.

In a nutshell, Phakoe stumbled upon ­evidence implicating Wolmarans – then the mayor of Rustenburg – in corruption.

Motsi testified he and Phakoe compiled a dossier of the alleged corruption. As loyal cadres, they decided to first present their evidence to the ANC before going to the police.

But nothing came of meetings with the ANC’s regional or North West leadership, or of a meeting with ANC heavyweights Billy Masetlha and Siphiwe Nyanda.

They delivered their evidence to the offices of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and then president Kgalema Motlanthe, all to no avail, testified Motsi.

After five failed attempts to get the attention of the ANC, Phakoe and Motsi delivered documentation to Zuma’s Forest Town house. Zuma responded by inviting them to Nkandla over the 2008 Christmas period.

At the time, Zuma himself was accused of corruption and debates about a “political solution” to make his legal problem evaporate were abound.

After travelling the length and breadth of the country to get to Zuma’s homestead, the politicians spent “almost a whole night” with Zuma and presented their evidence to him.

A month later, Phakoe, Motsi and other ANC councillors met Zuma, Motlanthe, Mantashe and other ANC top brass in Potchefstroom.

They again presented their dossier of corruption claims against Wolmarans and were told that then cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka would call a meeting “to solve the problem”.

On the seventh attempt to have the issue addressed, Phakoe addressed a meeting chaired by Shiceka in March 2009, where he again presented his dossier. Curiously, ­Wolmarans, who Phakoe had implicated in serious corruption, was present.

Before Phakoe addressed the meeting, Motsi testified, he looked Wolmarans in the eye and said: “Hate me, but don’t hurt me.”

Two days later, Phakoe was shot dead in a hit allegedly masterminded by Wolmarans and his bodyguard.

If ever the ANC and Zuma needed a reason corruption should be dealt with by the criminal justice system – and not through some comradely political solution behind close doors – the dead body of Moss Phakoe is that reason.

Here was a whistle-blower who put his life – literally – on the line to give effect to Zuma’s plea in his 2009 state of the nation address for citizens to “report crime and assist the police with information to catch ­wrongdoers”.

Unfortunately, Moss Phakoe learned the hard way that Zuma maybe didn’t refer to corruption when he spoke of “crime” in his speech – especially when senior comrades are involved.

Taking into account the Phakoe case, ­Zuma’s own aborted corruption prosecution and recent turmoil in the criminal justice ­sector, the hard question that must be asked is whether the ANC is consciously undermining the rule of law in favour of “political solutions” for politically connected individuals.

Since Zuma’s election as ANC leader in 2007, corruption-fighting institutions have been weakened substantially. The Scorpions were closed down, which led to an outflow of skilled forensic investigators and analysts to the private sector.

The Hawks, which replaced the Scorpions, were in effect an amalgamation of the police’s serious and violent crimes unit and ­commercial branch.

The unit’s corruption successes, albeit laudable, are mostly limited to lower-level officials, cheque fraud or small-town crooks. Bigger cases, like the fraud trial against Czech mafioso Radovan Krejcir, seem to be falling apart.

At the same time, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has become the face of corruption busting in the country, although she does not have the powers to prosecute.

Those fingered by her investigations are rapped over the knuckles, but seldom face the consequences of their deeds in court.

The corruption and money laundering ­investigation into expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema will be an important test for the state’s will and ability to prosecute the connected and powerful.

Malema will have taken tips from ­Zuma’s manoeuvring to escape prosecution. We can be sure that he and his supporters will push for a “political solution” to make possible charges go away.

But this is not justice – as Moss Phakoe learned in such a brutal and undignified way.

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