South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO

Former Free State MEC Dukwana ready to face Magashule in court

Former Free State MEC Mxolisi Dukwana testifying at the State Capture inquiry on 27 August 2019. (Screengrab from SABC)

Former Free State MEC for Economic Development Mxolisi Dukwana, who once supported ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule and considered him a friend, told the Zondo Commission on Tuesday: ‘I stand ready to face Mr Magashule in any court in the Republic.’ The declaration came after Magashule threatened legal action following Dukwana’s previous evidence to the commission.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wants to know, “Why do we have so few people who are prepared to stand for the truth?”

In a rare moment of candour, Justice Zondo described one of his problems as an adjudicator of the high-stakes investigation into State Capture, corruption and fraud.

Justice Zondo raised the question during witness Mxolisi Dukwana’s return to the commission on Tuesday. Dukwana is a former Free State Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Economic Development.

More recently, he was involved in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s successful Siyavuma campaign to lead the African National Congress in 2017.

Tuesday’s proceedings began slowly, shrouded in mystery. The morning’s deliberations concerned whether Dukwana could name a so-called Mr X.

In his supplementary statement, Dukwana refers to a document containing initials thought to denote the secretive Mr X who is mentioned in some press reports.

The debate for and against identifying Mr X led to protracted discussion between Justice Zondo, evidence leader advocate Phillip Mokoena SC and the unnamed man’s lawyer, advocate Mike Hellens SC.

Hellens submitted, in light of the commission’s sacred duty, that Justice Zondo must ensure that “wanton” and “wildly speculative” evidence is not submitted.

When Dukwana focuses on his client, said Hellens, “it is blatantly speculative”.

Dukwana allegedly referred to the as-yet-unnamed official Mr X and linked him to a corrupt asbestos project in the Free State worth some R225-million.

It is understood Mr X holds a senior position at a national government ministry.

Dukwana was eager to name him.

His attorney, Smanga Sithini, said no one at the commission should be treated with kid gloves.

Sithini argued the debate was moot, as Mr X featured in a newspaper article in which Mr X denied the association with the initials on the document about the asbestos project.

Sithini also held up a copy of Gangster State by Pieter-Louis Myburgh. He announced the official’s name featured in relation to what Dukwana later called the “asbestos heist” of the Free State.

Sithini dropped further hints as to Mr X’s true identity:

My learned friend has sailed very close to the wind of revealing what he shouldn’t,” responded Hellens.

Hellens motivated for his client’s name, position and entire description to be withheld.

Justice Zondo said: “One seeks to strike a balance. One does not want a situation where simply because someone objects to a statement, everything stops.”

He ruled proceedings would continue without mention of Mr X.

Mokoena, who had already let it slip earlier in the day, then promised to take note of where to exclude the man’s name.

I have put red stickers,” Mokoena joked to Justice Zondo. Dukwana then renewed his oath and began addressing Iqbal Sharma’s statement. In the main, he rubbished Sharma’s version.

After lunch, Dukwana conceded he previously supported ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule and considered him a friend.

These days Dukwana has a more jaundiced view of the former Free State premier, who has ascended to a Top Six post in Luthuli House.

I am not going to make the same mistake as I did before,” said Dukwana. “I have learnt my lesson that you don’t allow something small to fester.”

Following Dukwana’s initial evidence, Magashule threatened legal action during an interview with eNCA reporter Samkele Maseko. So, Dukwana instructed his lawyers to write to Magashule at Luthuli House.

Dukwana told his lawyers to inform Magashule they were the authorised recipients for notices on legal action.

On Wednesday, 10 April, his lawyers received a letter of receipt from Magashule’s personal assistant. Since then, said Dukwana, no news.

I stand ready to face Mr Magashule in any court in the Republic,” Dukwana announced on his return to the State Capture inquiry on Tuesday.

According to Dukwana, Magashule had begun his political ascent in the Free State during the 1990s, showing great promise. He was a generous politician who handed out clothing to those in need.

Magashule remembered the names of even the most junior of municipal officials, which impressed his comrades:

He would know that there is a vacancy of a clerk, a vacancy of a, you know, your lower-ranking officials in lower positions. He would know exactly, in each municipality.”

Dukwana said, “We were really impressed.” In hindsight, Magashule’s interest realised a more sinister motive, said Dukwana:

They say if you want to fight the system you don’t fight it. You create your own system that renders this one [obsolete].”

Around 1996, Dukwana rallied behind Magashule when Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota levelled corruption allegations against Magashule. “We defended him. We protected him,” recalled Dukwana.

Gone are his days of one-on-one conversations with Magashule, such as at a Sandton hotel after the ANC’s 52nd national conference in Polokwane.

Dukwana claimed he advised Magashule to graduate from provincial to national ANC structures, but others claimed Dukwana was motivated by envy and had designs on the Free State premier job.

That was not the case,” he said.

He also denied his comments on Magashule issued at the commission were motivated by malice:

It is out of love for some of these people that we are here.”

According to his evidence, the Free State province is, in effect, a fiefdom. “Some people proudly [on] public platforms say, ‘We will deal with you, you will be out of work, you will be poor and in some instances they will say they will take your wife’,” claimed Dukwana.

He reported a system of patronage and instilling fear. “Many structures were compromised,” claimed Dukwana, citing the police and the judiciary.

That perception is rife in the Free State that some of the people who are serving in the judiciary in the Free State are really compromised,” he said.

Justice Zondo urged Dukwana and others with information on alleged undue influence on the judiciary in the Free State to present evidence to the commission:

The judiciary is the one arm where people should feel comfortable that if they bring cases, those cases will be dealt with impartially, without fear, favour or prejudice.”

It would be a matter of grave concern even if there was just a perception. One would like to see if there is a factual basis for the perception,” said Justice Zondo.

Dukwana addressed his involvement in Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign. He tacitly responded to claims alleging he was paid R600,000 during the campaign.

These things started (a) long time ago,” he began. Dukwana emphasised his involvement in other ANC campaigns, including at the Polokwane conference.

He continued in his defence of the Ramaphosa bid to lead the ANC:

As I am sitting here, I am very proud of being a member of that campaign.”

He promised, “I can show that this is where the money went. No one is asking the other campaigns, ‘Where did the money go?’”

Dukwana noted the high cost of basic services and bemoaned leaders who were not dedicated to good governance as prescribed by law.

The fact of the matter is you are not going to do anything drastic, you know, as you say Radical Economic Transformation, when there is so much corruption in society,” he warned.

All those who know anything should come forward,” he insisted.

Dukwana’s comments on depression among government employees pressured to comply with instructions at the risk of losing their jobs or forfeiting promotion, moved the chair.

That’s part of my problem,” said Justice Zondo. “They are not coming forward.”

Justice Zondo continued: “One just feels that the numbers are small. There must be so many people in the provinces, in municipalities in national departments who know a lot of things, but who are keeping quiet.”

Dukwana responded, “Toxic leaders have a way of dealing with things; they instil fear.”

He will return to the commission on Wednesday, 28 August. Proceedings are set down from 09:00. DM

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