Now ANC admits to 'off-books' election campaign

2017-01-24 14:33
(File, News24)

(File, News24)

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Susan Comrie, amaBhungane

Johannesburg - On Tuesday, the ANC was forced to back-pedal on claims that it had no knowledge of a covert election campaign team known as the War Room.

Last week, ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa responded to questions about the campaign by saying that amaBhungane’s investigation was "based on malicious falsehoods and gossip".

However, ANC general manager Ignatius Jacobs submitted an affidavit to the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday confirming that public relations expert Sihle Bolani was part of the ANC’s campaign team in last year’s municipal elections.

Bolani has detailed how the War Room was set up to "disempower DA and EFF campaigns" through tactics that would not link back to the ANC. These included a seemingly independent news site and chat show, using "influencers" on social media, and planning to print fake opposition party posters.

Volunteered services

Bolani took the ANC to court, claiming she was owed R2.2m in outstanding fees. Jacobs's affidavit, on behalf of the ANC, denied that she was owed money, as she had volunteered.

He said: "[Bolani] undertook to volunteer her services and be part of the campaign team, together with other volunteers, to roll out the elections marketing strategy of the [ANC] in preparation for the local government elections on 3 August 2016."

In her founding affidavit, Bolani said she was approached by businessman Joseph Nkadimeng in April last year to become part of the War Room. However she was forbidden from having any direct contact with Luthuli House and instructed to make out invoices to an apparently non-existent company called Black Carbon, and to two ANC-linked investment vehicles. 

However, R50m in promised funding did not materialise. After the project’s eventual cancellation, Bolani approached the ANC. This led to Jacobs signing a R1m settlement agreement, of which Bolani claimed to have received only R100 000.

Jacobs said in his affidavit that the ANC disputed Bolani’s original claim for payment "on the grounds that there was no agreement that [she] would charge a fee for services rendered for the said amount. [Bolani], like all other volunteers, would have received payment for disbursements".

Settlement agreement on ANC letterhead

Despite this, Jacobs said, he signed the R1m settlement agreement, "purely as a gesture of good will". 

Although the agreement was drawn up on an ANC letterhead, and Jacobs had signed in his official capacity as ANC general manager, Jacobs claimed that the agreement was "not binding", as only secretary general Gwede Mantashe could bind the party. 

However, "the [ANC] acknowledges that the balance of R900 000 is still outstanding, but is not due and payable at this stage".

The High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday threw out Bolani’s urgent application for the case to go to court, with Judge Leoni Windell ruling that Bolani had failed to prove urgency.

The court also awarded costs in favour of the ANC after the party said that, as a non-government organisation, it relied mainly on membership fees and could not afford to waste money on legal fees.

The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, an independent non-profit, produced this story. Like it? Be an amaB supporter to help it do more. Sign up for its newsletter to get more.

Read more on:    anc  |  local elections 2016

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