Bantu Holomisa’s presentation to the TRC [on May 22 1996] was much anticipated and there was a huge media presence at the Great Centenary Hall in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth. His submission and the revelations of corruption which it contained created a great sensation. After he finished his testimony and handed over the secret files to the TRC chairperson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Holomisa left the gathering. This would not be the end of the story for him.
According to the party, Holomisa’s actions put the ANC into disrepute because Stella Sigcau was an NEC member and minister in Mandela’s Cabinet. Holomisa was criticised for not taking the matter to the ANC leadership or the party’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee or one of his Cabinet colleagues. But he was adamant that he had notified Mandela in advance about his testimony and that Mbeki was aware of it too, yet neither had contacted him and tried to stop him.
On August 4 1996, Holomisa was hauled before the party’s national disciplinary committee, chaired by Professor Kader Asmal, to answer for the contents of his submission. But he refused to appear before what he termed a “kangaroo court” and rejected the presence of Asmal as chairman.
He demanded that the committee be chaired by a neutral person, not by a member of the current leadership, as in his view they were all compromised by the fact that Sol Kerzner had admitted to funding the ANC’s election campaign in 1994. Asmal was then replaced by Dr Zola Skweyiya as chairperson, and Holomisa subsequently agreed to appear.
But by then the party leadership had closed ranks against him and a media campaign ensued as the ANC fought him by all means it could muster. He was expelled from the party on September 30 1996.
Holomisa and Mandela did not speak to or see each other for some time after he was shown the door by the party. “We first saw each other again when he invited me to his house at Qunu. I regarded this as an opportunity to hear from him personally what he had told a radio station about my case.
“To the radio interviewer Mandela had said that the top two matters that he felt his presidency had failed to handle well were, firstly, the Sarafina II saga, in which millions of rands were misspent by the department of health on a controversial HIV/Aids awareness play. Madiba presented my disciplinary hearing as the second issue that was not properly dealt with, and said the decision was a mistake. This contradicted his earlier statement to the media that nobody was going to apologise to me for the ANC’s action.
“During our meeting at his house in Qunu, I asked him whether his utterances on radio meant that as the ANC they were conceding that they had made a mistake in expelling me from the party. After Madiba had finished talking, I responded by saying: ‘I accept this concession from the ANC, which I view as an apology from you on the ANC’s behalf. As a result, I am withdrawing my court challenge to my expulsion.’ I decided to withdraw as I felt that there was no need to pursue it any longer since I had been vindicated.” Holomisa said to Madiba that in the light of this, they should continue with their lives as before and not let the matter affect their relationship.
“Let’s continue eating our umngqusho and meat together as usual.”
The decision to withdraw did not mean that the political battle was over. After he left, a frenzied