Open warfare between members of the ANC and the SA Communist Party (SACP) in Mpumalanga this week was allegedly sparked by booze, money and a lecture in honour of corruption fighter Jimmy Mohlala.
On Sunday, a bloody fight erupted between ANC and SACP members in KaNyamazane outside Mbombela. The ANC is now trying to broker peace with its tripartite alliance partner – but the fight has exposed a few ugly divisions.
The fisticuffs disrupted the memorial lecture designed to honour late SACP stalwart Joe Slovo and Mohlala, who was Speaker of the Mbombela municipal council when he was shot dead in 2009.
Six eyewitnesses, one of them a security officer, alleged that KaNyamazane businessman Sifiso Mabuza visited car washes, taverns and the local shopping centre offering young men “R200 notes” to disrupt the lecture.
On Sunday, City Press photographed Mabuza standing in front of a group of stick-wielding young men in ANC T-shirts who were drinking alcohol.
He had earlier arrived at the venue in a white Mercedes-Benz without number plates. He occasionally joined in the anti-SACP chanting.
Mabuza is a director of Chuba Consulting, which has offices in Sandton and Komatipoort. He was not available to comment on Friday, and did not return a text message and an email.
Mabuza’s business partner, Adele Melvin, said he could not be reached because he was overseas.
Mohlala – whose killer or killers have not been caught – was murdered while he was in the process of exposing massive tender corruption related to Mbombela’s R1.2?billion 2010 World Cup stadium.
The SACP, supported by a faction of the ANC in Mpumalanga’s Ehlanzeni region, has adopted Mohlala as a symbol of its anti-corruption campaign.
ANC members in the region who support the SACP are opposed to Premier David Mabuza’s leadership. Bonakele Majuba, the SACP’s secretary in Mpumalanga, told City Press: “[The ANC in the Ehlanzeni region] has shown it doesn’t want anything to do with Jimmy Mohlala.
“It looks like Mohlala’s death is their nemesis and that gives rise to question marks.”
Majuba said the party wanted national police commissioner Riah Phiyega to “speed up” her investigation into political killings in the province, including Mohlala’s murder.
ANC insiders in the region told City Press the SACP’s decision to honour Mohlala in its lecture was viewed as a provocation against Premier Mabuza.
The ANC hardened its stance when it realised that Mathews Phosa, former Mpumalanga premier and ANC treasurer-general, was billed to speak, said several senior party members.
The ANC argued that Phosa was neither an ANC member nor a leader of any ANC structures.
Phosa and Majuba have been openly scathing of Premier Mabuza’s leadership.
But Phosa and the premier’s relationship is in tatters after the former submitted a document to Luthuli House in November last year implying that Mabuza could have been an apartheid spy.
The premier this week announced that he had laid a criminal charge against Phosa, a man he considered his “father” and “brother”.
Lucky Ndinisa, the ANC’s secretary in Mpumalanga, said he had berated Ehlanzeni leaders for Sunday’s disruption.
“I spoke to the regional secretary [Phazamisa Mathe] and told him the leadership could have done better than to let things get out of control in our presence,” said Ndinisa.
He said the provincial executive committee would convene a special meeting at which the ANC and SACP leaders in Ehlanzeni could iron out their differences.
Ndinisa also urged “caution” for “comrades who behave as if there is an ANC decision on Comrade Jimmy when his name is raised”.
“This is still a criminal matter that we want to treat with sensitivity and care,” he said.