The country’s politicians once again had the nation talking around water coolers, at dinner tables, on social media as they entertained and shocked the nation.
From the dramatic resignations of Mmusi Maimane and Herman Mashaba form the DA, the arrests of ANC leaders Bongani Bongo and Zandile Gumede to the jaw dropping testimony at the Zondo commission on state capture and the EFF and Freedom Front Plus springing strong showings at the national and provincial polls in May, it was another year of intrigue, twists and turns, and power battles in South Africa’s political arena.
News24 takes stock of the year that was:
Mkhwebane vs Gordhan, Mkhwebane vs Ramaphosa
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been on a collision course with President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan for much of 2019. It’s been the battles everyone’s been watching.
Mkhwebane, in separate reports, made damning findings against both the president and his trusted lieutenant. This has led to a web of court challenges, with Mkhwebane suffering a number of legal body blows.
Both Ramaphosa and Gordhan have taken the reports against them on review, arguing Mkhwebane erred in her findings. In July, she found that the establishment of the so-called rogue unit at the South African Revenue Service was illegal, ordering Ramaphosa to take remedial action against Gordhan, who was Sars commissioner at the time.
In the same month, the Public Protector found that Ramaphosa “misled” Parliament about the source of a R500 000 donation from businessman Gavin Watson, the now deceased former chief of controversial state capture-linked services company Bosasa.
Ramaphosa has maintained that he was not directly involved in the fundraising efforts of his ANC presidential campaign in 2017, and that he had not misled Parliament.
However, an email leaks exposé by News24 found that Ramaphosa had personally typed a note to what is believed to be his banker, instructing the transfer of R20m from a money market account (believed to belong to Ramaphosa) to an account belonging to the Ria Tenda Trust.
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Waldo Swiegers, Gallo)
Shortly after the News24 exposé, the Sunday Independent released its own file of leaked bank statements which showed that donations made to the CR17 campaign and the payments received by some of the people who worked on the campaign.
The statements show a number of payments to politicians, including Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa and Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
Among the donors to the campaign was the family of billionaire Nicky Oppenheimer and former Absa chief executive Maria Ramos. Questions about whether donors to Ramaphosa’s campaign expected or were promised some sort of benefits were brought into sharp focus when it was reported that Ramos had been appointed to serve on the Public Investment Corporation’s board.
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule investigated for involvement in formation of ATM
In June, News24 revealed that the ANC would launch a probe into claims that Magashule was involved in the formation of the ATM – a rival political party with alleged links to former president Jacob Zuma – ahead of the general elections.
It was alleged that Magashule played a key role in the formation of ATM, whose most prominent member, Mzwanele Manyi, was once a vocal and staunch supporter of Zuma. Manyi resigned from the ANC to join ATM, publicly stating his unhappiness with the governing party.
It was even reported that Magashule allegedly recommended that the word “movement” be included in the fledgling party’s name. The investigation was to be headed by former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe who later recused himself from the role. Nothing has come out of the probe thus far, News24 understands.
EFF, FF Plus big winners at 2019 election
With Gauteng on the line and a further decline at the polls for the ANC forecast by some, this year’s national and provincial elections were set to be the most hotly contested battle for control of government since 1994.
While the ANC retained power at a national level and in Gauteng, the party dipped below the psychological 60% barrier, garnering 57.5% of the national vote.
In Gauteng, the party narrowly edged it, securing enough votes to win the slightest majority.
The EFF continued its strong growth, recording improved figures at a national level and in all provinces. The FF Plus were arguably the biggest surprise, chomping into the DA’s support base to double the votes it received in 2014 in many provinces.
The DA remained South Africa’s official opposition, but its support declined, precipitating the return of former leader Helen Zille to one of its top positions.
Helen Zille makes a come back
With the DA divided and lurching from one crisis to the next, the party took a battering from both the left and the right, with more many of its more conservative voters ditching the party for the FF Plus, while many moderates who may have voted for the organisation during the Zuma years returning to the ANC hoping for a New Dawn.
Zille, who is never short of voicing her opinion, returned to the fold after a damning report compiled by a three-man review panel laid much of the DA’s decline at Mmusi Maimane’s door.
Her election as federal council chairperson was seen as a victory for the classical liberals in the party, spelling the end for Maimane and his more inclusive version of liberalism, one in which race was held as a factor in crafting redress policies.
Days after Zille’s reemergence, Maimane and two of his closest allies – Herman Mashaba and Athol Trollip – resigned from their positions as federal leader, City of Johannesburg executive mayor and federal chairperson, respectively. Maimane and Mashaba also resigned as members of the party entirely.
Mmusi Maimane hugs Athol Trollip after they quit. (Simon Sonnekus, Netwerk24)
Maimane, Mashaba, Trollip resign
Clearly disillusioned by the party’s strong message in his leadership, Maimane made a shocking move, resigning from the party entirely.
His leadership was also tested when a review into the DA’s performance during the 2019 elections came back with s damaging report which proved to be the death knell of his leadership calling him indecisive, inconsistent and conflict-averse. Mashaba, a friend to the former leader, was the first soldier to fall followed by Trollip, who, on principle, said he could not continue to be part of the leadership collective. John Steenhuisen was voted interim party leader.
Zuma goes to state capture
The testimony of one of the men at the very dark heart of state capture was arguably the most anticipated during the Zondo commission this year.
Former president Jacob Zuma, ever the strategist, did not disappoint, delivering explosive claims against some of his ANC comrades, labelling several former ministers who had served in his cabinets as ministers as spies.
After a first day of jaw dropping testimony, the rest of Zuma’s time on the stand was characterised by a poor memory and throat-clearing as he dodged his way through questioning.
Zuma is expected to return to the stand next year.
Bosasa takes the spotlight in state capture
Former Bosasa operations chief-turned-whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi shocked the nation when he implicated a long list of high-profile politicians, including Zuma, Gwede Mantashe and Nomvula Mokonyane, in claims of state capture.
Agrizzi alleged that he witnessed Mokonyane being handed R50,000, which was stuffed in a bag. He also alleged that 38 government officials were on Bosasa’s payroll.
Gavin Watson’s former right-hand man blew the lid on how the controversial service firm operated, seeking to briber and capture ANC politicians and civil servants with the aim of winning lucrative state contracts.
Agrizzi’s sensational claims saw him becoming a household figure during the first six months of the year, with his image even forming the basis for memes.
IFP elects new leader, Buthelezi steps down
After 44 years at the helm, IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi stepped down handing the reigns over to Velenkosini Hlabisa.
While Hlabisa made it clear he was his own man, many in the party characterised him as a close ally of Buthelezi, who said he would still be on hand to assist the new leader.
The IFP stemmed its decline at the polls during this year’s national and provincial elections, securing more support nationally and in KwaZulu-Natal.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (Getty Images)
ANC regains Johannesburg, aims for Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay
The ANC took back Johannesburg during an election for Mashaba’s replacement with the help of smaller parties which were in coalition with the DA and at least two DA members. In the same week, the governing party won a motion of no confidence against Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa.
The DA is currently challenging the validity of that council sitting. In the Nelson Mandela Bay, the coalition between the ANC and mayor Mongameli Bobani took a turn for the worst resulting in Bobani’s ousting. The ANC and DA are expected to go head to head in that metro.
EFF leader Julius Malema addresses the newly-elected CCT members. (Chanté Schatz, News24)
Malema re-elected EFF president, Dali Mpofu out
It was no shock when the 3800 delegates in attendance all raised their hands to support the reelection of their leader Julius Malema. Not after media was witness to many kneeling at his feet as if to worship him as a god.
The biggest loser during the National People’s Assembly was former party chair Dali Mpofu, who walked away very little power from the party he helped form. Mpofu contested flatly for the position of deputy president against Floyd Shivambu.
During his closing address, Malema said there were no losers in the elections adding that the contestation demonstrated a healthy democracy in the party.