Mahlatse Gallens

Mahlobo: Man of many mysteries

2016-11-19 15:22
State Security Minister David Mahlobo. Picture: Lulama Zenzile

State Security Minister David Mahlobo. Picture: Lulama Zenzile

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State Security Minister David Mahlobo once again finds himself in the eye of the storm after a disastrous week that saw a self-confessed rhino poacher boast of his links to the minister. Photographs of him posing with the trafficker and members of staff at the massage parlour exposed him as being rather liberal with the truth. 

News agency Al Jazeera secretly recorded Guan Jian Guang during a documentary on rhino poaching in South Africa profess to his “close connection” with Mahlobo and doing business with the minister’s wife while comfortably showing off pictures of himself and the minister.

Mahlobo threatened to sue Al Jazeera, saying in essence he is only guilty of loving the massages at the spa owned by Guan. He is adamant that he was not aware of Guan’s illicit activities. This is little comfort for South Africans and does not bode well for a man who is not only South Africa’s number one spy but also a man tasked with ensuring the country’s security is tact.

All we have heard is Cabinet noting that the Hawks are investigating. But President Jacob Zuma has not released a statement on the matter asking at least for him to explain himself.

But that was not all in this jam-packed week for Mahlobo. It appears being liberal with the truth is a trait a bit too dear to the minister. He also contradicted his own statements about student activist Mcebo Dlamini, claiming he no longer knew the student after stating two days before that he visited his home.

He cautioned MPs about believing newspaper reports about knowing Dlamini despite video recordings where he clearly and audibly states: “I happen to know him, he has been to my house several times."

Perhaps living up to the famous quote from a former premier of his province who proudly stated that, “It is acceptable for politicians to lie.”

Not too much is known about the man. Mahlobo was pulled from obscurity in Mpumalanga where he was head of department (HOD) of cooperative governance and traditional affairs before being elevated to cabinet.

Sources who worked in his office say his tenure there was not without controversy. Perhaps this explains his meteoric rise to national politics.

He was referred to as “super HOD” as he was the only one with a driver, blue lights and a bodyguard – paid for with taxpayers' money.

He is said to have reported directly to Premier David Mabuza and not his MEC and helped to write his political speeches.

Three sources told News24 that he paid millions of rands to a company that he hired to investigate service delivery protests that plagued the province during his tenure.  The report they say was trying to implicate his political foes including former premier Matthew Phosa but to date no one has seen the actual report.

EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee, who was then the CFO refused to pay the company involved, leading to a fallout.

Mahlobo’s “rapid rise” to the national stage still has many frowning, especially comrades from Mpumalanga. Like “magic” one minute hew was there and the next minute he was announced by Zuma as the minister of state security in 2014.

The unknown Mahlobo from Bergplaas farm, KwaNdalaza Royal residence in Piet Retief district, appeared at a branch meeting of Ward 17 in Mbombela, was “imposed” as deputy secretary on branch members in a “rigged election”.

Then quickly he was elected controversially again as deputy secretary of the regional structure before he was elected  to the mother body’s National Executive Committee in 2012. He never served in the provincial executive committee.

His meteoric rise is linked to his close ties with Mabuza – labelled his henchman, “deployed to be his eyes and ears” after helping secure Zuma win the 2012 Mangaung elective conference.

It was a project that started earlier for Mahlobo when he was chair of the Mahlambandlovu branch in Pretoria before the epic Zuma versus former President Thabo Mbeki political battle.

But others from KwaZulu-Natal say the criticism of Mahlobo is unfair as it disregards his activism in ANC, confirmed by his government profile that while studying at the University of Zululand he was a member of both the Youth League and SASCO. He was elected secretary of the SRC for two terms and obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree and later Honours Degree in Biochemistry.

But while many might argue as the chief spy some obscurity is essential his less than two years at the helm has seen him and department courting front pages.

There was the 19 million rand that was stolen from the state security agency’s offices last December. 

Remember the signal jamming in Parliament last year, blamed on an over-eager official. 

We are also still awaiting the outcome of espionage investigations into former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and other political figures including Julius Malema, Lindiwe Mazibuko and Joseph Mathunjwa. 

The investigation was launched  last year following a blog alleging they were working with foreign spies on regime change.

After the story of Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula broke alleging that she “smuggled” a friend in a state jet, the president asked her to explain herself, but nothing on Mahlobo. Perhaps some are more equal than others.

* Gallens is political editor at News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    david mahlobo  |  state security
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