Fraud charges could dash Pule Mabe’s youth league hopes

2014-09-29 14:09

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Former ANC Youth League treasurer Pule Mabe could find himself out of the race for league president because of serious concerns in the ANC about handling yet another leader’s corruption fallout.

ANC leaders are said to be concerned that, should Mabe get elected, it would create negative headlines similar to those surrounding President Jacob Zuma’s upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

“The ANC is very uncomfortable about the Pule issue.

“Already it is struggling to contain the storms around Zuma. Can you imagine that happening with the youth as well?” a league activist with knowledge of inside discussions said.

Mabe is one of the frontrunners in the league’s leadership contest and, if the league’s conference was held this weekend as planned, league leaders said he could have won.

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) at its meeting in Pretoria last weekend, postponed the league’s conference to a date yet to be determined.

There are also concerns within the party that Mabe could use his position to try to escape his fraud charges.

“Pule is having his court case in October. If he’s not leader, then he can’t say Bathabile [Dlamini, minister of social development] is conniving to oust him,” a youth league leader said.

Mabe and his two co-accused, Paseka Letsatsi and Surprise Ramosa, had R2.2 million in assets seized by the National Prosecuting Authority’s asset forfeiture unit earlier this month.

They’re alleged to have siphoned funds from the South African Social Security Agency through organisations that did not qualify for funding.

Mabe, an MP and NEC member, appeared before the ANC’s integrity committee a week before the NEC meeting and assured them all was fine.

However, the committee became concerned following the seizure of his assets after his assurances.

“It asked the NEC whether the ANC could afford this type of baggage, and could the ANC sustain it,” a source with knowledge of discussions in the NEC said.

It submitted a preliminary report to the NEC and said Mabe must appear before the committee again in October before reaching a final verdict.

The ANC resolved at its Mangaung conference in 2012 that leaders should resign their positions when they are criminally charged, but this has not applied across the board.

The youth league leader said the fierce divisions brought about by the “harsh” leadership contest in the league also had the ANC worried.

Mabe has run a well-organised and well-funded campaign. His main rival, league national task team coordinator Magasela Mzobe, has in turn enjoyed the benefits of incumbency.

Mzobe has the support of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, two league activists said.

Mabe’s support has primarily come from the league’s national task team convenor Mzwandile Masina, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, Free State Premier Ace Magashule and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, two league sources said.

Some of Mabe’s supporters are, however, thinking of backing down because of the fraud charges.

They are positioning themselves ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in 2017 and they are compiling a slate with African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as president. The youth league has traditionally been considered a kingmaker.

“People think Mabe is supported by [President Jacob] Zuma because his supporters back Pule, but that doesn’t make sense,” a league leader said.

The league in Gauteng backed Pule, but at the same time said the integrity of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela should be protected. Zuma’s most loyal backers have all slated Madonsela over her report on his Nkandla homestead.

Many in the ANC would rather see the league come to a compromise on who should lead it, but this would only be possible if Mabe withdraws, another league campaigner said.

“What the ANC has realised is there could be an embarrassing contest that could tarnish the national task team’s work, and we’ll have one of those bum-showing congresses,” a league leader said, with reference to the league’s hotly contested but failed 2008 congress, which was characterised by the throwing of chairs and baring of bottoms.

“Also, if there is a disgruntled faction of 30% to 40%, they could end up being donated to the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] or some other group.

“The ANC realises a hotly contested congress at this time is not a good idea. It could mean the death of the youth league if it doesn’t succeed,” the leader said.

Initially it was said the league’s conference was postponed because of financial reasons.

Three sources said ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize told the ANC’s national working committee he needed more time to raise the R24 million needed to pay for the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, where the conference is due to be held.

Mantashe refused to comment on the money last Monday, saying it was none of the media’s business.

League spokesperson Bandile Masuku on Friday confirmed that the conference would need at least two months’ notice before happening, because of the logistics.

He said three provinces – the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, and Limpopo – still needed to have their conferences.

“The threshold [for conference] is that 70% of branches should be in good standing, and we have 70% of the branches, but we didn’t want to leave the other provinces behind,” he said.

He didn’t want to give details about the finances, but confirmed that the league didn’t want its new leadership to be saddled with conference debt because that could cause friction.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte is currently going around the country listening to the league’s grievances in provinces where there is friction.

Mabe’s phone was off and he didn’t respond to an SMS.

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