Controversial ANC leader goes to Parliament

A controversial former mayor of Rustenburg who was once convicted of killing a political opponent is the latest MP that the North West ANC is sending to Parliament, sparking uproar.

Former Rustenburg mayor Matthew Wolmarans, who was later released from jail after successfully challenging his conviction because a witness changed his evidence, is expected to fill the seat left vacant by the former Eskom boss Brian Molefe.

The decision has left party members and leaders in the province fuming that the party has “dared to appoint an individual known to have such a dodgy past”.

While he was acquitted after serving about a year of his 20-year sentence for the murder of an ANC councillor and corruption whistle-blower Moss Phakoe in 2009, a witness who helped secure his freedom is facing perjury charges for giving conflicting statements that resulted in Wolmarans’ acquittal.

Just like Molefe, whose membership was questioned, ANC members have raised doubts about whether Wolmarans had been on any provincial list from which MPs are meant to be chosen.

Although he has not been sworn in yet, an ANC MP confirmed that Wolmarans has been in the parliamentary precinct recently and is due to be sworn in as an MP next week.

Molefe resigned from Parliament in May to return to Eskom.

Wolmarans, Molefe’s replacement after three months, is a close ally of ANC provincial chairperson and North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo.

Phakoe was killed two days after handing in a dossier to the late local government minister Sicelo Shiceka on corruption activities in the Rustenburg municipality while Wolmarans was mayor.

In court, testimony was given that Phakoe had already met President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla to tell him about corruption in the municipality. It is not clear to this day if Wolmarans was implicated in any wrongdoing in the dossier.

"This case is not over"

The ANC’s allies, the SACP and labour federation Cosatu, have criticised the deployment.

“This deployment shows that the ANC has got no decency. How do you deploy someone who was convicted of killing his own comrade?” asked Cosatu deputy general secretary Solly Phetoe.

“It is very disappointing, especially because there is an ongoing perjury case where the state is trying to prove that witnesses gave conflicting statements under oath; they first testified to get Wolmarans convicted and later recanted to get him acquitted.

"In essence, this case is not over.”

Phetoe said Wolmarans’ deployment was also “insensitive” towards Phakoe’s family.

A witness in Phakoe’s murder case, Emmanuel Masoka, is facing perjury charges for giving conflicting statements that resulted in Wolmarans’ acquittal.

Frank Lesenyego, the spokesperson for the National Prosecution Authority in the province, said the outcome of Masoka’s case would not have any automatic impact on Wolmarans.

SACP provincial secretary Madoda Sambatha said the party had opposed Molefe’s deployment to Parliament.

They were equally opposed to Wolmarans’ deployment, which seemed as risky a move for the alliance to endorse as Molefe’s deployment.

Sambatha said when ANC provincial secretary Dakota Legoete consulted him on the matter, he pointed out that Wolmarans was fresh from jail where he served time for the death of a fellow ANC member.

Sambatha said: “Secondly, he was not on any list and his deployment now suggested there were ANC members who were a priority and prime members to be deployed based on their close proximity to the power in the province.”

Sambatha said he cautioned against placing the alliance in a situation where it would have to regret its position at a later stage.

SA National Civic Organisation provincial secretary Packet Seaketso wondered how Wolmarans became the next in line for the vacancy in Parliament.

“There is a reserve list and I have never seen his name there. This recent move clearly shows that deployment depends on one’s allegiance to power or a certain faction.”

However, Legoete said Wolmarans had the right to enjoy his freedom like any other South African.

“There is no matter of law before our courts which suggests that he is in conflict with the law. As a result we would be wrong to replace reputable courts with the court of public opinion,” he said.

“The Constitution protects the rights of a party to replenish its list in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act and this was complied with.

“We commend comrade Wolmarans for his restraint and discipline he has shown amid all the provocation, demeaning and sustained character assassination by some individuals from opposition,” said Legoete.

Wolmarans did not respond to calls or SMSes sent to him.

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