Melanie Verwoerd

Mabuza delivers fatal blow to ANC integrity commission

2019-05-29 06:00
Deputy President of South Africa David Mabuza at Nedlac sept 2018 (GCIS)

Deputy President of South Africa David Mabuza at Nedlac sept 2018 (GCIS)

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Why did David Mabuza choose to wait until the day of the swearing in of MPs to announce that he was going to clear his name? challenge the report? If he had acted immediately he would've had more than a month to clear his name, writes Melanie Verwoerd.

Last Wednesday, David Mabuza suddenly announced that he was delaying his swearing in as a member of Parliament. According to press statements he did so, so that he could first have the opportunity to address the ANC's integrity commission in order to clear his name. Yesterday, less than a week later, he was sworn in during a special ceremony at the Union Buildings. 

The ANC commended him for his stance and the president “personally applauded his resolve to put the interests of the ANC first”.

I am assuming the president meant that Mabuza was putting the interests of the ANC above his personal interests and not that of the country. The question is: “Did he really?” I believe that many questions remain unanswered in relation to this whole saga.

Firstly, why did Mabuza choose to wait until the day of the swearing in of the MPs to announce that he was going to clear his name? The ANC's parliamentary lists were referred to the integrity commission for review at the beginning of April. About two weeks later a report which red flagged a number of senior ANC leaders (including Mabuza) was presented to the top six. So why not immediately challenge the report? That would have given Mabuza more than a month to try and clear his name.  

Secondly, why did Mabuza suddenly feel that in order to clear his name, he could not be sworn in as an MP? It is not the first time that questions had been raised about his past. In fact, every time over the last year, when he appeared in the National Assembly to answer questions, the opposition parties have raised concerns. Mabuza handled them very effectively and repeatedly challenged them to present concrete evidence or to lay charges with the police. Thus, he used his position as deputy president and the platform it provides to consistently plead innocence. Why did he suddenly feel that he could not continue to do so?

Some ANC people argued that Mabuza is unwell and that his programme during the election campaign was tightly managed in order not to be too onerous. They therefore suggested that in order to recover, he actually didn't want to be in the demanding position of deputy president. If this had indeed been the case, he should have said so and then withdrawn his name. The country surely would have understood and wished him well. 

There had also been media speculation that Mabuza had wanted to return to Luthuli House to re-mobilise his support base in order to make a bid for the Presidency in five or 10 years. Again, if that was the case, why did he not just ask to be re-deployed?

Of course, with his swearing in on Tuesday, we know that none of this was indeed the case.

What we do know is that he succeeded in diverting almost all the media attention away from the president's election and his first speech to the National Assembly last Wednesday. He has also created a very difficult situation for the president. 

If President Ramaphosa had gone ahead and appointed another deputy president while Mabuza was trying to clear his name, it would have gone down very badly within the ANC – especially with the significant support base that Mabuza still has. Presumably, Ramaphosa didn't want to take that risk and so had delayed the appointment of the new Cabinet.

I fear that the biggest casualty in all of this will be the integrity commission. From what we understand, Mabuza's main gripe with the report of the integrity commission was that due diligence had not been done. Surely it is even less possible to have gotten to the bottom of all the accusations in less than a week?

Yet, when asked on eNCA this week if Mabuza had now been cleared by the integrity commission ANC spokesperson, Pule Mabe, said: "All issues have been clarified. It is all systems go."

So the question has to be asked how the presumably serious allegations against Mabuza were clarified after just one conversation with him and how this impacts on others who were also red-flagged, such as Gwede Mantashe and Mosebenzi Zwane? Surely this means that the original report to the top six and the work of the integrity commission in general is now under suspicion?

The serious ramification of all of this is that a very important vehicle for Ramaphosa to rid the ANC of corruption has become suspect and thus rendered useless. 

Ultimately, the big unanswered question remains whether Ramaphosa had perhaps made it clear to Mabuza last week that he was not planning to appoint him again as his deputy because of all the allegations and whether Mabuza jumped before being pushed, thus outsmarting Ramaphosa?

Let's hope that is not the case, but if it is, the winner of this round was clearly Mabuza.  

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.

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:    anc  |  david mabuza  |  cyril ramaphosa


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