The ruling party has been struck a mighty blow in the North West, where its number two man, China Dodovu, has been detained for the murder of an ANC regional secretary. Amid appeals for calm by provincial leaders, party members say this could be part of a sweeping clean-up operation following the triumph of ANC leader Jacob Zuma at Mangaung. MANDY DE WAAL and THAPELO LEKGOWA investigate.
The North West’s ANC deputy chair and MEC for local government in that province, China Dodovu, was arrested on Monday 25 February at his offices in Potchefstroom in connection with the murder of the ruling party’s regional secretary Obuti Chika. Dodovu is expected to appear in court within the next two days, and the Hawks have confirmed that the “ANC provincial heavyweight was detained on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder”.
Secretary of the volatile Kenneth Kaunda region when he was killed, Chika was shot dead in the driveway of his house in Klerksdorp on Friday 13 December 2012, just before the ANC’s elective conference was about to begin at Mangaung.
Hawks spokesman Paul Ramoloko tells City Press that Dodovu will join seven other suspects already arrested in the case. “We’ve been talking to the suspects and many other people. It’s through putting those puzzles together that we got through to him,” says Ramoloko.
The other suspects in this case include North West provincial ANC Youth League chairman Papiki Baboile; ward secretary Paul Molomonyane; councillor Itumeleng Molebatsi; municipal worker William Malefo, a taxi driver by the name of Kgotso Kali and a local called Jeffrey Letuka.
Late last week the Hawks also picked up someone they suspect of being the man who pulled the trigger in the murder. The arrest led to the seizure of the weapon thought to have been used in the assassination. The suspected murder weapon was found in the poverty-stricken region of Msinga, which is situated in the Umzinyathi district in the interior of KwaZulu-Natal.
Sapa reports that Premier Thandi Modise appealed for calm after Dodovu was picked up, adding that the MEC should be considered innocent until proven guilty. “We support further and intensive investigation into the matter. We believe that MEC Dodovu will co-operate with the investigation,” Modise says in a statement.
An ANC insider well-placed in provincial structures says that he saw the arrest “as a strategic move” by the ruling party’s provincial chairperson, Supra Mahumapelo, as part of his “quest for higher power”.
“To my surprise there China and Supra really never saw eye to eye. Supra accused China of being outspoken, so the chairman dealt with him. This is not the first time in the province that we have had comrades being arrested and linked to things they know nothing of. We won’t be surprised if it turns out that China and others are not linked to this,” the insider says.
The comrade close to the ANC’s provincial inner circle said that there was a list of people that Mahumapelo was trying to get rid of during his ascent to power. This list included Desbo Mohono, MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development; Boikanyo Raymond Elisha, Member of the Executive Council for Public Works, Roads and Transport; Nono Maloyi, and Mokgele Mojaki, the Ngaka Modiri Molema district municipality’s municipal manager.
Mahumapelo had already successfully disposed of the ruling party’s provincial secretary in the North West, Kabelo Mataboge, by getting Mataboge suspended just before the Mangaung conference. “The pot is now boiling and it is not easy to handle at a national level. The police are moving too slowly, as we were expecting these arrests to have taken place a while ago already.” The source says that this latest arrest was evidence of security agencies being used recklessly in the province to buoy the power of the Mahumapelo faction in the North West.
Lekgobo Mafoko, spokesperson for a sub-regional ANC task team in the Kenneth Kaunda region, says that the news of Dodovu’s arrest was a surprise. “The news of comrade China’s arrest came as shock to the region and the rest of the comrades in the provinces that I have spoken to,” Mafoko says.
“We see this as a political plot against all the arrested comrades. I think you are aware of the divisions in the ANC in the North West, but no one in the public is aware of the split in the provincial executive committee (PEC). All I can say is that China and Supra have different views and ideas. Supra has the majority of followers in the PEC, hence he is able to defeat China,” Mafoko adds.
“The comrades who went to Mangaung and voted in President Zuma are now doing a clean-up in the province. When the (ANC) National Working Committee came, we all thought they would be solving problems. Instead they came with instructions and purged. In our province, the people behind this are looking for higher power and will do anything to get it,” says Mafoko.
Political analyst Theo Venter believes this arrest will impact very badly on the ANC in the province. “Two weeks ago, after president Jacob Zuma was here, Supra had a meeting with all stakeholders in town and he had a long talk about how they (the ANC) were going to declare war on corruption, maladministration and corrupt officials. He said discipline would be meted out on corrupt politicians. Two weeks later, the ANC is hit by this arrest. I think the ANC is currently in a huge process of damage control,” he says.
Venter, who has known China Dodovu for some twenty years, believes that the MEC was key to the province, and this is why his arrest will hurt the ANC. “China is important in two ways. China is the MEC for local government, and the biggest challenge in this country at the moment is the collapse of local government,” Venter says.
Then there’s the matter of Dodovu’s skill. “We are losing someone who is bright, who understands the issues, and in every real sense is an asset to running a province. China even had hopes to be the premier, so he really is a major player in the province,” Venter says.
ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza tried to pour cold water on Venter’s claim that the party would suffer reputation damage. “The ANC was informed of China Dodovu’s arrest today, which has been quite disturbing given his level of leadership within the province; however, we feel that the matter is now in the hands of the police and they should be allowed to do their work without any interruptions,” Khoza said during a phone interview.
“I don’t think this will damage the ANC, or its standing in the North West, because you are talking about an individual who has yet to be proven guilty. But even if he were proven guilty, it is about a decision he made as an individual, and not a decision that was made by the ANC as an organisation. That’s why we as the ANC feel that if he is responsible for this, the law should take its course. The ANC does not sanction killings in any form,” Khoza stated.
But will Dodovu be suspended? “We have just become aware of his arrest today. Officials are in a meeting, so we haven’t been informed of any decision in that regard. I don’t know how this will be processed, and a decision regarding any suspension will be taken by the leadership of this organisation,” Khoza added.
Asked what the arrests were all about, Venter says: “It is power, because power provides the tools and access to resources. There is a story about the current premier having a farm in Potchefstroom and getting a house for a very cheap (sic) amount of money. Supra is a very wealthy and able businessman with several businesses that has made him financially very independent. He now has a leadership position and wants to be the premier, because when you are the premier you have even more power and access to resources. You also get to decide who to give patronage to,” Venter says.
“I know China Dodovu very, very, very well. I have known him since he was still an up-and-coming comrade with enormous academic potential. He studied and eventually got a bursary to further his studies in Stellenbosch, and eventually got a master’s degree in Public Administration there. At one point he even approached me to look for a possible academic position. In the very early 1990s I was the facilitator of the statutory and non-statutory groups of Klerksdorp’s city council, and responsible for helping people to get to grips with the new dispensation, and that’s where I met him,” says Venter.
“On the one side I had the old councillors, all white. And on the other side I had all the new councillors who were young and black. Among them, China Dodovu was the brightest star. He is intelligent and at the time had an extremely good understanding of the intricacies of transition. Everyone had a very high regard of China, and so when the 1994 elections came it was no surprise that he went to Parliament as a very young parliamentarian,” Venter relates of his own relationship to Dodovu.
Post-1994, Dodovu went to Parliament for about one term, and then returned to the province. “In the late 1990s, China came back first to the provincial legislature where he was active, and he was appointed as the director of housing of the Matlosana local municipality (Klerksdorp),” the political analyst says. “There he got into a serious scrap with the municipal manager and was ousted. I am not sure if he was fired, but he left that job, only to return a short while later as the mayor of Matlosana, and China got rid of the guy who had gotten rid of him in the first place.
“Obviously this murder case is still alleged, but I think that incident might offer insight into what we are seeing now. We saw that China developed a serious ‘tit for tat’ approach very early on in politics. He was the mayor of Matlosana, but he was involved, apparently, in all kinds of activities, and there were many unsavoury rumours swirling about at that time.” Venter says one such allegation, which was reported on by the press, was that Dodovu allegedly had shares in a brothel in Klerksdorp.
“I don’t think he ever got formally investigated for any of those issues. Rather than taking the man to task and getting him on the straight and narrow, the ANC promoted him to the legislature and he got the position of MEC under Thandi Modise. He was one of the guys that gave the previous premier, Maureen Modiselle, a very hard time. In Afrikaans we’d say he was a ‘deurwinterde’ politician (a sassy and seasoned politician). If wants to go up against you, you have to have all your wits about you and Modiselle was no match for him,” says Venter.
It is, of course, still early days in this new scandal. It remains to be seen whether Dodovu has the wherewithal to escape a murder rap, and whether he’s innocent or guilty. It also remains to be seen what kind of impact on provincial, and national, politics his arrest will have.
What has become disturbingly frequent, though, is a mafia-like modus operandi used to settle political scores. In a space where the political elite equals richest individuals equals most powerful, a pro-active, caring government has little chance at survival.
There’s a fight to the death over resources and power. The murderous drama that’s unfolding in the North West offers us an insight into the uglier side of provincial politics. And a ghastly picture it is. DM
Photo: ANC NW’s China Dodovu.
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