The VBS Mutual Bank looting scandal and links to ANC leaders in Limpopo made it back on to the agenda of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting this weekend.
The ANC top six had been scheduled to report back to the NEC after weeks of consultations in which ANC structures and leagues in Limpopo widely agreed to abide by the decision made by Luthuli House to reinstate two officials in the province who have been accused of being part of the looting of VBS.
City Press has heard that the NEC this weekend decided to refer the matter to the alliance political council, which included Cosatu and the SA Communist Party.
The integrity committee suspended Limpopo ANC deputy chairperson Florence Radzilani and treasurer Danny Msiza two years ago, but the NEC reinstated them last month.
The integrity committee had found that the mention of their names in the Great Bank Heist report on fraudulent VBS transactions that further impoverished people from downtrodden communities in Limpopo was sufficient for them to temporarily step aside.
In defence of the duo, an NEC member told City Press that the integrity committee had rushed to condemn them even when VBS investigator, Advocate Terry Motau, had not given them right of reply.
“That is gross injustice. It is something that we fought against even during apartheid. Even the apartheid regime took you to court although they fabricated evidence. But they took you to court”.
The person said that since the ANC established the integrity committee, “we have not paid much attention to the structure including the terms of reference”. “So the committee has no clear terms of reference except for the conference resolution and what is in the Constitution. And you are expecting them to do their work. There is no administrative capacity, they have no way of engaging in these particular questions except for them to meet and make pronouncements”
However, City Press had seen at least four letters written to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule in which the decision to reinstate the pair is rejected by a collective of fraternal formations in Limpopo’s Vhembe region, including the ANC Veterans League, the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry, trade union federation Cosatu, the SA Municipal Workers’ Union, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA, the ANC MK National Council, the Pastors Forum, the VBS Shareholders Forum and other community-based structures.
Others who made submissions to Magashule were the ANC’s Kwathelani branch in ward 11 of the Thulamela sub-region, the Tshipise Civic Organisation in Sagole and Tshidimbini Community Funeral, a burial society.
The fraternal formations told Magashule in a letter on July 13 that they were “aggrieved about the lack of merit in this decision both procedurally and substantively, [and] strongly reject the ANC NEC decision and wishes to persuade our organisation to rescind its decision”.
The formation cited procedural defects, saying the ANC rushed to make the decision before consulting others, and the process should have been done the other way around.
“In fact, the ANC appears to have jumped the gun and made such a sensitive decision knowing very well that it is not going to be easily accepted by the public and those whose hard-earned funds were looted during the VBS corruption,” read the letter.
Aside from the “embarrassing procedural blunder”, they said, “we are further disappointed by the ANC’s execution of the consultation process as it deviates from the norm”.
“This is because the ANC seemed to have changed its tune as it has now resorted to informing its structures about this decision.”
They also raised the issue that Msiza and Radzilani were yet to be cleared through a legal process and therefore remained tainted, and warned that the ANC would lose elections in Limpopo if the matter was not handled properly, especially because some local activists were allegedly killed after speaking up about the looting of VBS.
They also called for the revival of VBS.
The Kwathelani branch said Luthuli House was “ignoring the seriousness of corruption allegations and was also not considering the feelings of VBS creditors”.
Is there a plot to oust Mathabatha?
City Press has also heard talk of an alleged plot to oust Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha as punishment for his support of the restatement of Msiza and Radzilani.
This follows allegations that government ministers and ANC NEC members were part of a secret meeting three weeks ago in Marble Hall in Limpopo.
Critics compared the alleged clandestine gathering with the infamous Maharani Hotel meeting in Durban in 2018 that was supposedly held to find a way to oust President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mathabatha did not respond to questions sent to him on Friday.
Although a high-ranking Ramaphosa ally said the meeting was merely “a fact-finding session” to establish the mood around the VBS matter on the ground in Limpopo, some of those mentioned as attendees denied they were involved.
“The comrades were genuinely there to ask about the real issues around VBS and they wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth,” said a reliable Ramaphosa camp insider.
“And then there were people in the meeting saying that, on the ground, people are mobilising to say that if the VBS people come back, then the province will be made ungovernable and they will never vote for the ANC again. It is not that leadership is campaigning for that, it is the people on the ground.”
Former state security minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba said: “There were several meetings that were held on the issue, but I definitely was never part of such meetings. What I know is that, after the so-called NEC decision on the Limpopo officials, communities and our structures were extremely angry. Personally, I received SMSes and phone calls regarding the same issue.
“I was invited by different structures and communities in the province [to give my opinion] on the issue. Unfortunately, it was the time I was writing exams and I could not attend.”
Limpopo Finance MEC Charlie Sekoati denied he participated in the meeting. He said that, although he may have held a different view to Mathabatha on the VBS issue, that was before the NEC made a decision and, “ultimately, the PEC was in [agreement] that this is not even our matter but a matter for the NEC to deal with”.
“This decision was not taken by us, it is a decision of the NEC, who then informed us of their view. We were just there to listen to the outcome of what the NEC decided,” Sekoati said.
He said Mathabatha was “a good leader for me and everyone”.
He added that premiers were also appointed by the NEC, and “there is no one who can sit in a corner and decide such a matter”.
Sekoati said that, after messages containing details of the alleged plot started circulating on social media last week, he contacted Mathabatha to assure him of his support.
“He was also surprised that such a thing could happen knowing where we are coming from,” he said.
He said it appeared that there were elements in the party feeding “poison” and “toxic” messages to the youth league in the province’s Collins Chabane sub-region – whose name appeared under a statement circulating on social media that condemned the alleged meeting.
ANC MP Philly Mapulane said Mathabatha was part of Ramaphosa’s #CR17 ANC presidential lobby group in 2017, and “there is no way that I would be part of a meeting to plot against him”.
“Maybe there was a meeting, but I was not there. I doubt that those people mentioned could be part of the meeting to oust Mathabatha when all of them were part of the #CR17 team.”
Mapulane, now part of the interim provincial committee leading the ANC in North West, also strongly dismissed suggestions that he could have spoken to Mathabatha about the meeting.
Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla also denied knowledge of the meeting.
“I have not been to Marble Hall since the declaration of disaster in March, so I could not have been in the mentioned meeting. Either your source has his or her mind mixed up or was fed with mixed up information or someone is fabricating or hallucinating.”
Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said her “focus is not on the provincial leadership issues, but to establish strong branches so the ANC can prepare for the upcoming local government elections”.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said he had not been to Marble Hall in years, while Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu did not respond to questions texted to his phone on Friday.
A person close to Msiza said ANC structures and leagues in the province had accepted the NEC’s decision on the VBS matter, adding that linking the reinstatement to Magashule was a ploy meant to plant doubt in Ramaphosa’s mind.
However, a person in Luthuli House said it was unprecedented that an NEC decision took this long to be implemented, and, if the reinstatement succeeded, it would be an important victory for Magashule and the collective, but if it failed, Ramaphosa would gain more control of the party.