Gloves off for Mabuza and Phosa

Bat­tle lines drawn in R10m defama­tion law­suit be­tween erst­while po­lit­i­cal com­rades

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Lies, be­trayal and po­lit­i­cal back-stab­bing were the ma­jor themes in a R10 mil­lion law­suit be­tween Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and for­mer ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Mathews Phosa this week. North­ern Gaut­eng High Court Judge Bill Prinsloo has de­scribed the civil claim as “some­what an un­for­tu­nate case” be­tween erst­while po­lit­i­cal com­rades. The two sat about a me­tre apart in court, but did not greet each other, while Mabuza sup­port­ers, clad in cam­ou­flage army uni­forms, hurled ex­ple­tives at Phosa in the court’s cor­ri­dor.

The week-long trial has shown that some of the top six ANC of­fi­cials had doubts about Mabuza’s lead­er­ship.

Mabuza, who is an ally of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, is de­mand­ing R10 mil­lion compensation from Phosa for defama­tion of char­ac­ter em­a­nat­ing from a pur­ported in­tel­li­gence re­port that al­leges that Mabuza was an apartheid spy.

So far, no wit­ness has claimed own­er­ship or knowl­edge about the au­thor of the spy re­port. Mabuza al­leges that Phosa and his busi­ness as­so­ciate, Nick El­liot, cooked it up to set in mo­tion a process to top­ple him as pro­vin­cial ANC chair­per­son and premier.

The re­port paints Mabuza as a sell­out. It al­leges he was a spy, code-named PN485, who in­formed the apartheid govern­ment about the po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties of se­nior ANC lead­ers such as Zuma, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga and the late Al­bertina Sisulu be­tween 1985 and 1993.

The re­port adds that Mabuza worked with no­to­ri­ous apartheid killers such as Eugene de Kock, the for­mer Vlak­plaas com­man­der, and se­cu­rity po­lice­man Bu­tana No­fomela. The re­port sug­gests that Mabuza’s al­leged es­pi­onage led to the killing of Mpumalanga ANC ac­tivist Por­tia Shabangu in Swazi­land in 1989.

Phosa said he felt “be­trayed” by the ANC lead­er­ship for leak­ing the re­port af­ter he emailed it to deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral Jessie Duarte on Septem­ber 29 2014 fol­low­ing an ear­lier meet­ing be­tween the two about ANC mat­ters. Phosa said Duarte for­warded the re­port to the ANC’s top six of­fi­cials.

Phosa, who was the first Mpumalanga premier in 1994 but is now a lawyer and busi­ness­man, told the court that Duarte had a ques­tion on be­half of ANC na­tional of­fi­cials about Mabuza af­ter their meet­ing in April 2014.

Duarte, ac­cord­ing to Phosa’s tes­ti­mony, asked: “Com­rade Mathews, we want to know, as ANC of­fi­cials, who is this David Mabuza?”

He said that he told Duarte he re­cruited the young Mabuza into one of the ANC cells in the Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) and ap­pointed him ed­u­ca­tion MEC in his cabi­net in 1994.

Phosa said that af­ter an anony­mous per­son dropped the spy re­port in his sec­ond house in White River, he sent it to Duarte so that the ANC could in­ves­ti­gate. “I feel be­trayed that the re­port was leaked.” He de­nied as­ser­tions by Mabuza’s se­nior coun­sel, Et­tiene Labuschagne, that he and El­liot fab­ri­cated the re­port and dis­sem­i­nated it to dam­age Mabuza’s im­age in the ANC. Phosa im­plied that Mabuza’s lawyer, Davis Mculu, dis­sem­i­nated the re­port to the me­dia be­cause, when a jour­nal­ist asked for his com­ment, he asked for a copy of the re­port and the jour­nal­ist sent it to him with a cov­er­ing let­ter from Mculu At­tor­neys.

Phosa’s for­mer house man­ager, Jan Ven­ter, tes­ti­fied that in March 2014 he saw and overheard his boss and El­liot plot­ting the spy re­port, which Phosa drafted on a piece of pa­per.

“I put it to you that you did not give the re­port to Mabuza be­cause you have an axe to grind [be­cause] the re­la­tion­ship be­tween you and this premier has been sour for many years,” Labuschagne said.

“You con­cocted the re­port,” he added. Phosa said this as­ser­tion was “non­sense”.

Mabuza’s case suf­fered a ma­jor blow when the ev­i­dence given by Shabangu’s daugh­ter, Nonhlanhla Khoza, had to be ex­punged from the record.

Khoza told the court that Phosa told her on a plane from Mbombela to Jo­han­nes­burg in Jan­uary last year that Mabuza was in­volved in the killing of her mother. Prinsloo struck out the ev­i­dence be­cause it was pre­sented for the first time in court this week and Phosa was not given a chance to plead to it.

Phosa’s se­nior coun­sel, Mike Maritz, also warned that Khoza’s ev­i­dence was defam­a­tory.

Khoza was seen sob­bing out­side the court af­ter tes­ti­fy­ing against Phosa. Phosa paid for her ed­u­ca­tion and helped her es­tab­lish a foun­da­tion in mem­ory of her mother.

“She’s still young, I for­give her,” Phosa said when asked to con­firm that he of­fered fi­nan­cial help to Khoza.

Judg­ment on this case has been re­served.

PHOTO: THEANA BREUGEM

DOU­BLE TROU­BLE Premier David Mabuza (left) said in court this week that a let­ter ‘leaked’ by for­mer ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Mathews Phosa claim­ing that Mabuza was an apartheid spy was forged

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