The fact that several ANC leaders have been implicated in wrongdoing but still retained their political office was one of the main debating points in the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting last weekend, which led it to reinstate Limpopo leaders implicated in the VBS Mutual Bank looting scandal.
Speaking on the outcome of the heated virtual discussion that lasted from Saturday to Sunday, supporters of the incriminated Limpopo officials – deputy chairperson Florence Radzilani and treasurer Danny Msiza – told City Press that at least five other prominent ANC and government representatives were facing allegations of committing misdemeanours, and some had even been convicted but had not been deposed from office.
At a media briefing on Wednesday, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule announced that the NEC had received the report from the Integrity Commission on Msiza and Radzilani almost two years after they were suspended from their positions.
“The NEC therefore decided that the two comrades be reinstated to their positions. Their reinstatement will be preceded by engagement with structures and stakeholders, which will be led by national officials,” he said.
The arguments used to support the reinstatement cited other leaders who were still on either the NEC or provincial executive committees (PECs), despite serious allegations or findings against them. These included Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula over a Public Protector report on a trip he took his overseas, former MP Mdu Manana, who was convicted of three counts of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, former Gauteng health MEC and ANC PEC member Qedani Mahlangu for her role in the Life Esidimeni tragedy, KwaZulu-Natal ANC deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu for his arrest over money laundering and corruption, as well as former deputy president of the ANC Youth League Andile Lungisa in the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, who was convicted of assault.
“There are comrades in the ANC who’ve been found guilty in court or in reports from chapter 9 institutions and forensic investigations. They’re still in office and are clearing their names,” said a supporter of Msiza.
Last month, eight people implicated in the VBS looting scandal were arrested thanks to evidence in the widely publicised Great Bank Heist report from Advocate Terry Motau.
While former deputy finance minister Mondli Gungubele was initially mentioned among those who defended the reinstatement lobby at the NEC meeting, he told City Press yesterday that, while he was not permitted to discuss NEC matters in public, his views on the matter remained aligned with the ANC resolution taken at the party’s conference in Nasrec in 2017.
Gungubele said the conference had committed the party to fight corruption, and “it wouldn’t make our organisation look good if there were people among us with scandalous allegations against them on which the ANC hadn’t made any pronouncement”.
He said the comparison with other officials, who had been treated with kid gloves, “wouldn’t make the ANC look good”.
“That’s all I can say. I’m avoiding disclosing what happened at the NEC meeting because it wasn’t a convention and it’s wrong. I’m deliberately explaining to you what the ANC resolution expects us to do.”
Gungubele added that the challenge facing the governing party was to differentiate between a formal disciplinary process and reputational management. He said section 25 of the ANC’s constitution, which dealt with disciplinary issues, provided that a person implicated in a misdemeanour that required disciplinary consideration would be suspended pending a full investigation so that they did not interfere with it.
“There’s a specified period to investigate and charge the person, and this is an ANC-initiated disciplinary process,” Gungubele pointed out.
“But if an ANC member is fingered for corruption by state institutions, and is accused of it in a particular report that threatens the reputation of the organisation, even if they haven’t been found guilty, the integrity committee can have a conversation with that person. If the committee isn’t happy with the explanation from that individual, it can ask them to stand down until they’ve sorted out their issues.
“It’s not the duty of the ANC, primarily, to sort out those issues for them. The organisation has an interest in the person, but it’s that individual’s duty to clarify the alleged misdemeanour themselves.”
He said that the 2017 conference had made it clear that “once you’re waiting to appear in court, the reputation of the organisation has been damaged. In such an instance, the resolution says that the integrity committee is deployed to help us manage the reputation of the ANC.”
Gungubele said that whether or not the reinstatement of the implicated members had been a majority decision, he agreed with ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who said that “the reinstatement must be an outcome of engagements with the people and the party structure in Limpopo”. He said it was “unfortunate” that Magashule had told the media that Msiza and Radzilani could immediately resume office, “because that was not representing the end of those discussions”.
He said the NEC also wanted law enforcement agencies to act swiftly against those found to be in the wrong in the VBS saga, regardless of their positions or stations in life, to expedite investigations into the loss of lives by key whistle-blowers in the VBS saga and to keep the public continuously updated.
City Press learnt that, on Thursday, the ANC top six had a virtual meeting with the provincial executive in Limpopo. According to a supporter of Msiza, it was mentioned at the meeting that considerations working in the suspended leaders’ favour included the fact that they had not yet been charged, criminally nor within the party.
“They have not been subjected to any internal process of the ANC for the past two years while staying at home. Also, this thing happened two months after the Limpopo provincial conference, which means that these people have served half their term at home with no disciplinary process,” said the supporter.
The person said that tomorrow or on Tuesday, the top six would hold another virtual meeting with regional leaders in Limpopo to communicate discussions at the NEC. A group of former minority shareholders of VBS was also likely to be consulted.
City Press has seen a letter from Msiza’s lawyers to Magashule, written in November, stating that the integrity committee relied “unlawfully” on the VBS report by Motau to suspend their client. The letter added that Msiza had also challenged the findings “on the basis of procedural unfairness and the doctrine of legality”.
The lawyers said Motau had “failed and/or neglected to file an answering affidavit, notwithstanding the fact that he was duly cited and served with the papers as a party to the proceedings”, and the pleadings were closed.
“According to the Prudential Authority of the Reserve Bank, there are no findings against our client and, according to them, the VBS investigations report has no binding nor external legal effect. Thus the integrity committee should not have relied on the said report in arriving at its decision,” the lawyers said.
They added: “Ever since our client was told to step aside, no action has been taken by the ANC. An unreasonable period of time has lapsed since then. We have advised our client that the ANC is in breach of its constitution, however, he has instructed us to afford his organisation – particularly the national executive committee – an opportunity to resolve the issues raised herein.”