The colour of money

Cash is the silent partner at any ANC conference and Mangaung will be no different. City Press political correspondent Mandy Rossouw examines why money matters at Mangaung.

An ANC delegate who is also a businessman tells the story of how, after the party’s elective conference in Polokwane, there were suddenly many new Mercedes minibuses on the streets of Limpopo.

“The money came from the conference. Delegates were paid to make sure Zuma won and this was their reward,” he says.

He doesn’t want to reveal his name because he too got a minibus.

Money is the silent partner at any ANC conference and Mangaung will be no different.

A spin doctor says President Jacob Zuma’s campaign ran out of cash in the last few weeks before Polokwane.

“There was no money left and it looked like the campaign was going to fail.”

But fortunately for Zuma, Tokyo Sexwale pulled out of the presidential race and offered his support to Zuma’s campaign.

Sexwale did not have much to give in terms of delegates, but as one of the richest men in the party, he had cash to spare.

“That helped Zuma over the last hurdle because (Sexwale) was there to pay for some nice whisky in the places lobbying gets done,” said the ANC insider.

There are two ways in which money plays a role in ANC conferences.

The cruder version is when delegates are simply given wads of cash for their votes.

According to party insiders, this trend is on the decline and this was seen in the run-up to Mangaung.

So-called organisers – usually key leaders or lobbyists – get the cash and they ostensibly use it to buy cellphone airtime for delegates and other lobbyists, pay for food and drinks at meetings, and transport delegates at provincial conferences to and from meetings.

But if there’s money left over, they get to keep it.

Funders whose money is being dished out say they don’t really care if the money is used for its stated purposes, as long as they get the votes.

“I would give R10 000 to an organiser and he would do his thing. This is for him to put petrol in his car because you know they have to drive around a lot. This time one organiser put 5?000km on his car,” said one businessman who is in the construction industry.

Delegates are happy when the Mangaung lobby group comes to their region because they know they bring the party with them – not the ANC, but a jol.

“You have to have lots of discussions when you are lobbying and you can’t discuss over water. You need to be able to buy some drinks at least,” said one lobbyist.

“You have a few parties where people can relax and discuss.”

Meat for a braai, pap, salads and beers are permanent features of these “discussions” because it is believed you can’t talk politics on an empty stomach.

The businessman told City Press an organiser usually spent about R10?000 a week and if it ran out he simply got more.

“You can’t be stingy, but you can’t bankrupt yourself either.”

Why do they do it?

“You can then at least say you had a hand in getting a president elected,” is the official answer businesspeople give you.

Behind the scenes though, it is clear they hope for tenders that will help their business interests, or at least give them greater access to top government officials.

Said one Johannesburg-based businessman who contributed to Zuma’s Polokwane campaign: “At least now I can phone any minister I want and they’ll take my call.”

In consecutive organisational reports, then ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe complained about the use of money in the ANC.

In the run-up to Mangaung, an internal report compiled by former home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said some branch leaders and businesspeople “own” members because the businesspeople pay people’s R12 membership fees and then direct them how they should vote.

But everyone agrees that without a slush fund there is no way a leader can even dream of being elected.

As one businessman puts it: “This is how the system works. How do you win without lobbying? How do you lobby without money?”

» Do you want to contribute to our daily Big Read column? Have you been thinking and talking about the burning issues at this conference? Email your submissions – a maximum of 600 words – to Natasha Joseph:

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