A verbal war has broken out between ANC NEC member Fikile Mbalula and Carl Niehaus - a close confidant of party secretary general Ace Magashule - on social media, with Mbalula vowing that "crook" Niehaus will be dealt with.
The latest episode, in what appears to be a larger battle between Mbalula and Magashule, started when Niehaus complained on Twitter that Mbalula had blocked him on the social media application.
Niehaus is a close confidant of Magashule and has been working with the secretary general since his election to Luthuli House in December 2017.
"Hmmm so this young chap, Mr. Fearfokkol ??, @MbalulaFikile, has gone & blocked me. He seems to fear much, especially engagement about his blatant opportunism, careerism & lack of repect for his seniors, such as the SG of the ANC, comrade @Magashule_Ace. Talk about real cowardice!" Niehaus tweeted.
Mbalula responded angrily and without punctuation or grammar: "You are a crook what the hell you doing at luthuli house is still a mystery to us now that we are done with elections we must deal with you . (sic)"
In response to Sunday Times journalist Andisiwe Makinana's sardonic remark that Niehaus had also called Mbalula "young", he tweeted: "This guy is well known crook he is employed at our head office how come njani? Fraudster."
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom also weighed in.
"Carl, let's rather talk about the money you took from people with your story about having bone marrow cancer. A Deputy Minister even went to the funeral of your mother, only to discover that she was still alive," Hanekom tweeted.
"What is he doing at luthuli house ? Employed to insult leaders of the Anc masquerading as former mk when he is never being." Mbalula tweeted in response to Hanekom.
Twitter users were quick to jump on this bandwagon, and several pointed to the irony of Niehaus accusing someone else of opportunism.
Even an opposition MP, the DA's Dean Macpherson, got in on the action.
"Only cowards fake their mothers death to pay off debts," he tweeted.
Hanekom and Macpherson are referring to the reports in 2017 that Niehaus had allegedly "killed off" his very-much-alive mother in an apparent inheritance hoax to avoid paying a large sum of money that he owed.
Accusations of fraud
The alleged faking of his mother's death wasn't the first time Niehaus was accused of fraud. In 2009, he stepped down as ANC spokesperson after he confessed to several allegations of fraud stemming from his own finances. He also allegedly claimed that he held a doctorate in Theology from the Dutch University of Utrecht, which is untrue.
As the factional battles heated up in the run-up to the ANC's elective conference in December 2017, Niehaus re-emerged into the public eye as the spokesperson for the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) and a key member of the campaign team for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's failed bid for the ANC presidency. He was also publicly ridiculed for his dancing.
Earlier this year, eyebrows were raised when he appeared at the ANC's headquarters, Luthuli House, working as an aide to Magashule.
The current spat between Mbalula and Niehaus has its genesis in Magashule's remarks, as the election results came in, that ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa wasn't the main reason for the ANC winning the election.
Mbalula, the ANC elections campaign manager, responded that Magashule shouldn't be "allergic" to Ramaphosa, who was a "game-changer". Niehaus then released a statement, in an unclear capacity, in which he said that "Comrade Mbalula is indulging in a nonsensical narrative" and complained about Mbalula's "provocative" statements.
After Free State ANC Youth League members threatened to burn copies of the investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh detailing Magashule's alleged grand corruption scheme in the province, Mbalula tweeted that he knew the youth league were sent by "ace magashule coward".