INTEGRITY COMMISSION ANC AT WAR
Some members have argued that the structure is used to settle factional scores
The ANC is at odds about the status of its integrity commission rulings, with some members arguing that the structure is used to settle factional scores. City Press understands that the party’s national executive committee yesterday referred the commission’s report on the VBS Mutual Bank heist back for proper processing.
The body had earlier recommended that ANC leaders implicated in the looting of almost R2 billion of poor people’s money should step aside from party leadership positions. The report, amongst others, implicated Limpopo ANC deputy chairperson Florence Radzilani and treasurer Danny Msiza.
Those who are pro and anti-Msiza in the province but were aware of the discussions at the NEC claimed that integrity commission report was sent back to allow for the implicated officials to make representations. Once that was done, the report will be handed to the national working committee (NWC) for finalisation.
“They [NEC] kicked that thing out,” said a jubilant Msiza ally. An anti-Msiza lobbyist put the blame squarely in the door of ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule of creating “a loophole” that enabled the commission report to collapse.
City Press was informed that Magashule admitted in the meeting that he had not informed Msiza and Radzilani about the opportunity to appear before the commission.
Ahead of the NEC meeting, Magashule lashed out at members for criticising the integrity commission. “We are the national executive committee. I don’t have a [personal] view. My view will be the view of the collective.”
There were also fears – particularly among those aligned to former president Jacob Zuma – that the commission could be used as a purging instrument by those who won last year’s Nasrec elective conference. But even some allies of President Cyril Ramaphosa are uncomfortable about the commission being given too much power.
The integrity commission was established after the 2012 Mangaung conference to protect the ANC’s image “by ensuring ... that urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct”.
But it has been hamstrung by the fact that its decisions must be ratified by the NEC.
THE VBS CONUNDRUM
The ANC is under pressure to show Limpopo voters that it takes the looting at VBS seriously and there is expectation that it takes action against Radzilani and Msiza who are implicated in advocate Terry Motau’s Great Bank Heist report.
While Msiza allegedly pressurised municipalities to place deposits in VBS illegally, Radzilani received cash from the bank.
This week, Cosatu in Limpopo staged protests at some municipalities that lost millions of rands in VBS. A provincial shutdown is planned for Wednesday to try to force the ANC to take action.
The ANC’s problems are exacerbated by the fact that Luthuli House also received millions in donations from VBS. Party leaders this week denied this, but later admitted it and pledged to pay back some of the money.
Critics of the integrity commission, which is led by former Robben Islander George Mashamba, accuse it of encroaching on the turf of formal disciplinary structures by recommending that leaders step aside.
Msiza wrote to Magashule and the ANC top six this week, asking that the commission’s report not be discussed at this weekend’s NEC meeting because he had yet to tell his side of the story.
“I am baffled and deeply hurt by the subversion of due process by the integrity commission. The net effect of this gross injustice is that I have been persecuted and found guilty in the court of public opinion ... I have been judged in absence and presumed guilty and now the onus is on me to prove my
innocence,” Msiza wrote.
ANC insiders say the national working committee should have discussed the matter on Monday, but Magashule left it off the agenda.
This week, Msiza’s supporters lobbied NEC members to have the integrity commission report reversed, expecting Magashule to take their side because he was among those who disagreed that the commission’s decisions should be binding.
Msiza’s sympathisers are saying the commission should have called him, while his opponents argue he should have voluntarily presented himself to it.
ANC NEC member Mathole Motshekga said the commission’s recommendations were “vague”.
“What does ‘to step aside’ mean? It is not saying whether they must step aside from executive positions or party positions,” he said.
THE LUNGISA AND MABUYAKHULU QUESTION
Another complication is that the ANC has not enforced its own resolution that members who face prosecution should vacate their posts, and that those convicted should automatically step down.
Nelson Mandela Bay regional chair and Zuma ally Andile Lungisa is appealing a three-year sentence for assault, but remains in his job.
Ramaphosa backer and KwaZulu-Natal deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu still occupies his post even though he faces charges of money laundering and corruption.
THE LIMPOPO FACTOR
Msiza’s lobbyists accuse Mashamba of playing factional politics. He is a member of the veterans’ league in Limpopo, which had a bitter relationship with Msiza.
Limpopo ANC branches supporting Msiza and Radzilani were also plotting to take the fight to Luthuli House, and to court if Mashamba’s report was not reversed.
An NEC member and Msiza ally said they want a just and fair process.
“The integrity commission can’t be beyond reproach. Msiza wants the court to review the VBS report and you are saying he must step aside. What is going to happen if he wins the court case? Mashamba is playing factional politics because of his background with Msiza in Limpopo,” the NEC member said.
Mashamba told City Press on Friday that the commission was “guided by the terms of reference that were given to us by the NEC”.
“If somebody is not happy he or she has a right to appeal. The NEC has a final say. The integrity commission is like a lower court in this case.”
Msiza’s provincial opponents defended Mashamba, saying he was an impartial party veteran.
LEAGUES WEIGH IN
The ANC Youth League is now saying that officials implicated in the VBS saga must recuse themselves from leadership positions.
Youth league deputy president Desmond Moela said: “You can’t take something from the poor. The law must take its course.”
ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba said they would push for the expulsion of guilty leaders and members.
“We are not going to protect or defend anybody. The ANC can’t harbour criminals. What angers us is that people who invested with VBS are women and poor people from rural areas,” Matuba said.
ANC Veterans League president Snuki Zikalala said the league wanted an independent investigation into implicated ANC officials and members.
“We are taking a cue from the veterans league in Limpopo that officials implicated in the VBS scandal must step aside ... so that there can be an independent investigation [into] them,” he said.
The Gauteng ANC leadership’s decision to defy the provincial integrity commission has emboldened its detractors.
This week the province defied a recommendation that former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and legislature chief whip Brian Hlongwa resign from the provincial executive committee (PEC). Hlongwa, facing corruption allegations, merely stepped down as chief whip, while Mahlangu quit when the Life Esidimeni tragedy hit the headlines.
Gauteng ANC secretary Jacob Khawe said the PEC believed the ANC’s constitution stipulated that membership issues were the “purview of a constitutional disciplinary committee and not the integrity committee”.
Previously, however, Gauteng leaders argued that decisions of national and provincial integrity commissions should be binding – notably when the structure asked a scandal-tainted Zuma to resign.
An ANC leader aligned to Zuma said Ramaphosa’s camp was now flip-flopping from its earlier position.
“Now they are no longer talking about the commission’s binding powers because it has come back to bite them. That is what happens when you take emotional decisions to deal with political opponents,” the Zuma ally said.