Why did David Mabuza choose to wait until the day of the swearing in of MPs to announce that he was going to clear his name? challenge the report? If he had acted immediately he would’ve had more than a month to clear his name, writes Melanie Verwoerd.
Last Wednesday, David Mabuza suddenly announced that he was
delaying his swearing in as a member of Parliament. According to press
statements he did so, so that he could first have the opportunity to
address the ANC’s integrity commission in order to clear his name.
Yesterday, less than a week later, he was sworn in during a special ceremony at
the Union Buildings.
The ANC commended him for his stance and the president “personally
applauded his resolve to put the interests of the ANC first”.
I am assuming the president meant that Mabuza was putting
the interests of the ANC above his personal interests and not that of
the country. The question is: “Did he really?” I believe that many questions
remain unanswered in relation to this whole saga.
Firstly, why did Mabuza choose to wait until the day of the
swearing in of the MPs to announce that he was going to clear his name?
The ANC’s parliamentary lists were referred to the integrity commission for
review at the beginning of April. About two weeks later a report
which red flagged a number of senior ANC leaders (including Mabuza) was
presented to the top six. So why not immediately challenge the
report? That would have given Mabuza more than a month to try and
clear his name.
Secondly, why did Mabuza suddenly feel that in order to clear
his name, he could not be sworn in as an MP? It is not the first time that
questions had been raised about his past. In fact, every time over the last
year, when he appeared in the National Assembly to answer questions, the
opposition parties have raised concerns. Mabuza handled them very
effectively and repeatedly challenged them to present concrete
evidence or to lay charges with the police. Thus, he used
his position as deputy president and the platform it provides to consistently
plead innocence. Why did he suddenly feel that he could not continue to do
Some ANC people argued that Mabuza is unwell and that his programme
during the election campaign was tightly managed in order not to be too
onerous. They therefore suggested that in order to recover, he actually didn’t
want to be in the demanding position of deputy president. If
this had indeed been the case, he should have said so and then withdrawn his
name. The country surely would have understood and wished him well.
There had also been media speculation that Mabuza had wanted to
return to Luthuli House to re-mobilise his support base in order to make a bid
for the Presidency in five or 10 years. Again, if that was the case, why did
he not just ask to be re-deployed?
Of course, with his swearing in on Tuesday, we know that none of
this was indeed the case.
What we do know is that he succeeded in diverting almost all the
media attention away from the president’s election and his first speech to the
National Assembly last Wednesday. He has also created a very difficult
situation for the president.
If President Ramaphosa had gone ahead and appointed another deputy president
while Mabuza was trying to clear his name, it would have gone down very badly
within the ANC – especially with the significant support base that Mabuza still
has. Presumably, Ramaphosa didn’t want to take that risk and
so had delayed the appointment of the new Cabinet.
I fear that the biggest casualty in all of this will be the integrity
commission. From what we understand, Mabuza’s main gripe with the report
of the integrity commission was that due diligence had not been done.
Surely it is even less possible to have gotten to the bottom of all
the accusations in less than a week?
Yet, when asked on eNCA this week if Mabuza had now been cleared by
the integrity commission ANC spokesperson, Pule Mabe, said: “All issues have
been clarified. It is all systems go.”
So the question has to be asked how the presumably serious
allegations against Mabuza were clarified after just one conversation with him
and how this impacts on others who were also red-flagged, such as Gwede Mantashe
and Mosebenzi Zwane? Surely this means that the original report to
the top six and the work of the integrity commission in general is now under
The serious ramification of all of this is that a very
important vehicle for Ramaphosa to rid the ANC of corruption has
become suspect and thus rendered useless.
Ultimately, the big unanswered question remains whether Ramaphosa
had perhaps made it clear to Mabuza last week that he was not planning to
appoint him again as his deputy because of all the allegations and whether
Mabuza jumped before being pushed, thus outsmarting Ramaphosa?
Let’s hope that is not the case, but if it is, the winner of this
round was clearly Mabuza.
– Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.
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