In his first media interview since clashes at an SACP memorial lecture, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza has denied sending anyone to disrupt the event.
This follows claims by provincial South African Communist Party secretary Bonakele Majuba that Mabuza admitted during a face-to-face conversation that he sent people to disrupt the event at the KaNyamazane community hall on Sunday.
Majuba and former Mpumalanga premier and ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa were to be guest speakers.
The event was to be held in honour of late SACP leader Joe Slovo and slain speaker of the Mbombela municipality Jimmy Mohlala.
The topic was political killings in the province, including the murder of Mohlala who was gunned down after blowing the whistle on irregularities around the construction of the R1.2 billion Mbombela stadium ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
However, the lecture was indefinitely postponed when bullets, stones, chairs and knobkerries flew after people in ANC T-shirts invaded the hall.
The rabble-rousers had arrived early and started singing anti-Phosa songs.
“He is lying,” Mabuza said when asked to comment on Majuba’s accusations.
“I was asking him what happened there. Instead of answering me he accused me of hiring people to disrupt their memorial lecture. But I then asked him – because a memorial lecture is a study about comrades – why did they allow some people into the hall and deny others entrance? I asked about Phosa, because, since when is Phosa an SACP member?” said Mabuza.
Mabuza and Phosa have strained relations, more so since Phosa provided the ANC leadership with a dossier in which Mabuza is accused of having been an apartheid spy.
There are also clear pro-Phosa and pro-Mabuza factions in the province.
Majuba, who visited the scene of siege at the community hall yesterday, told journalists that when he confronted Mabuza about the matter at a meeting in Pretoria, Mabuza asked him why he invited Phosa to speak at the memorial lecture.
“He admitted to me that he hired the people to disrupt our memorial lecture. I asked him why he hired people to disrupt our lecture and his answer was: ‘Why did you send Phosa to speak there? That is an admission that he did it,” said Majuba.
Majuba said it was time for Mabuza to step down or be removed.
He said Mabuza’s involvement in the chaos was also evident in that he never visited the injured in hospital.
The injured were ANC and SACP members.
Majuba said: “When something happens he normally sends people to hospitals or goes there himself, but now we saw no statement from him.”
“Instead, the national office of the ANC issued a statement condemning the violence and hooliganism. His shop stewards [the provincial ANC Youth League] had to issue a politically malnourished statement on his behalf.”
Ten people were hospitalised and police have yet to make any arrests.
Mabuza will hold a media briefing in Mbombela today in connection with the events of Sunday.