Pumlani Mkolo, the man believed to be the mastermind behind the Mandela funeral scandal in the Buffalo City metro, has been re-elected unopposed as the ANC’s regional secretary.
His election comes at a time when the provincial executive committee (PEC) of the ANC placed him on special leave following the Mandela funeral scandal.
Mkolo was regional secretary of Buffalo City in 2013 when late former president Nelson Mandela died. He is currently facing fraud and money laundering charges in the East London Magistrates’ Court after he allegedly used his influence to siphon off millions from city coffers.
An amount of R5.9 million meant for events to commemorate the death of the global icon was allegedly distributed to a network of people connected to Mkolo a few days after Madiba died.
Contacted for comment on Saturday, Mkolo said: “I am in a conference. I cannot talk at the moment.”
Mkolo was elected at an ANC regional conference held at East London’s Alexander Golf Club in West Bank on Friday, along with the metro’s deputy mayor, Xola Pakati, who was elected chairperson; Luleka Simon-Ndzele, who was elected speaker; and Mkolo’s co-accused, who was elected deputy chairperson.
Also elected at Friday’s conference were Mkhawuleli Maleki as deputy secretary and Ncedo Kumbaca as treasurer.
Pakati, the new chairperson of the embattled region, defended Mkolo’s re-election despite him being linked to a scandal that had embarrassed the ANC.
Pakati asked: “Mkolo has not been convicted of any wrongdoing. South Africa is a constitutional democracy. He is innocent until proven guilty. Don’t you think people have got rights?” .
He added that there was no dark cloud hanging over the metro’s leadership due to Mkolo’s re-election.
“There are internal processes in the ANC that deal with matters. There is an integrity committee looking into those issues. So there is no dark cloud. Due processes of the ANC are being followed in all those issues, so there is no crisis,” he said.
Asked about Mkolo’s status now that he had been elected regional secretary despite being put on special leave by the PEC, Pakati said: “He was put on special leave, but his membership of the ANC has not been suspended.”
Mkolo met all the requirements to stand as regional secretary, said Pakati.
“He has been nominated by branches on the basis that he is a member of the ANC in good standing. Remember, the matter of the special leave is a matter for the PEC. It is outside our jurisdiction as the region,” said Pakati.
Mlibo Qoboshiyane, provincial spokesperson for the ANC, said there was no sanction against Mkolo in terms of ANC disciplinary processes.
“It does not then mean that if there is a case to answer, a member of the ANC cannot do that because of the position he is holding. As of now, the leave was to deal with the political dispensation we had to consider as the PEC, but that was not necessarily saying he is ineligible in terms of the ANC’s defined constitutional provisions to be nominated and elected,” he said.
The PEC did not have the right to dictate who must be elected because that was the sole preserve of branches, he said.
Asked how the PEC viewed his re-election given the serious charges he was facing, Qoboshiyane said: “When all processes, including those that are in front of the judiciary, are finalised, we will be in a position to express our own PEC opinion.”
He said Mkolo’s matter had been referred to the integrity commission of the ANC, which dealt with matters of morality in the organisation, and the PEC was still awaiting the outcome of that process.
Provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane agreed that Mkolo was a member of the ANC in good standing and therefore eligible for election.
He said that the province was still waiting for guidance from the integrity commission pertaining to the allegations Mkolo was facing in court.
“As soon as this matter has folded to its logical conclusion, or the integrity commission [has] given us guidance, the PEC, working with the [ANC’s] regional executive committee will not hesitate to take the appropriate decision,” said Mabuyane.
The Mandela fraud case will be back in the East London Magistrates’ Court next month.