In one version of the story, a politician who assured scared councillors they would not be victimised for reporting a DA MP who solicited sex in exchange for jobs has ended up unfairly charged with attempting to frame the MP.
In the other version of the story, the blameless gay MP was the victim of a homophobic smear attempt by the politician.
This is currently the situation as regards the DA’s latest internal dogfight: pitting newly resigned Gauteng provincial leader John Moodey against MP and former deputy chief whip Mike Waters.
When Moodey resigned on Wednesday, he alluded to the fact that he was facing disciplinary charges for allegedly having attempted to frame “a senior parliamentary leader” in a sex-for-jobs scandal.
Moodey did not go into detail about the allegations, but presented them as part of an ongoing abuse of disciplinary processes within the DA in order to purge dissent. He implied it was significant that the charges had arisen this year after he announced his intention to challenge interim party leader John Steenhuisen for the party’s leadership in October.
Moodey said many other things too: he alleged that the DA was veering from the centre to the right, that the party appeared content to govern only the Western Cape in perpetuity, and that it was increasingly tone-deaf on racial issues.
But in a DA press conference on Thursday to control the fallout, the focus was almost entirely on Moodey’s disciplinary charges as Steenhuisen hit back.
The DA’s interim leader accused Moodey of seeking to “defame colleagues, play the race card, and cause as much damage to the party as possible” while “running away from facing a very serious set of charges”.
Said Steenhuisen: “[Moodey’s] case is one of the most serious that has ever been before the DA’s federal legal commission.”
The party’s federal legal commission deputy chair, Werner Horn, said that there was “very strong initial evidence” to support the charge that Moodey had falsely attempted to frame Waters for soliciting sex from young councillors in exchange for jobs.
“The matter doesn’t turn on allegations and counter-allegations,” said Horn, adding that there was concrete evidence available in the form of phone recordings and messages.
But when journalists asked if the relevant evidence could be released in the interests of transparency, Horn replied: “We are not able to do that at this stage because this is an ongoing investigation.”
By Thursday afternoon, Waters had entered the fray himself via a Facebook post in which he described himself as the victim of an attempt by Moodey “to destroy my political career and personal reputation”.
“The FLC [federal legal commission] has evidence, including a recorded discussion of Moodey, to support allegations that he and two others attempted to intimidate two young councillors in Ekurhuleni (which includes my constituency) to sign fraudulent affidavits to the effect that I, in my capacity as the chairperson of the regional candidates selection panel, tried to get them both to perform sexual favours for me in exchange for me promising to ensure that they were ranked in an electable position on the party’s lists for the 2016 local government elections.”
“Nothing could be further from the truth. These brave young councillors refused to give in to this intimidation by the province’s most senior member and reported him, backed by substantial evidence, to influential party representatives. As an openly gay person myself, Moodey allegedly committed another cardinal sin: he targeted two vulnerable homosexual young men in a homophobic attack, aimed at defaming me. He didn’t count on two tough young Liberals fighting back.”
Waters also indicated that he would be pursuing legal action against Moodey.
This prompted a countering statement from Moodey on Thursday evening providing more detail on his alternative version of events.
“About three years ago I was approached by one of the DA members who is also being charged, whose name I am not prepared to divulge at this stage because his case has not yet been heard. He told me he had been approached by councillor Dinake and councillor Lotriet informing him that during the 2016 candidates selection process they had been approached individually by Mike Waters, the selection panel chairperson, soliciting sex in exchange for guaranteed electable positions on the Ekurhuleni Councillors list. I informed him that unless these councillors were prepared to give written statements to this effect, the matter could not be taken forward. Nothing was forthcoming and that is where the matter ended at that time.”
He stated that earlier this year he was approached by a “senior member of the Ekurhuleni caucus” who informed him that the same two councillors were worried that as the selection processes were once more approaching, they would again be put under pressure by Waters.
“I informed him that unless these two councillors were prepared to make statements about this serious matter it could not be addressed,” Moodey wrote.
Moodey claims he was subsequently told that one of the councillors was now willing to submit an affidavit containing the allegations against Waters:
“He, Clr Dinake, was however concerned that he would be victimised if he did so and was seeking assurance from myself as the provincial leader that I would take steps to protect him should he be victimised. This request by Dinake to the senior councillor was confirmed in a WhatsApp message which was forwarded to me. As the leader of the province at that stage, I had a duty to defend the processes of the party and to protect councillors with difficulties of this nature. I phoned Councillor Dinake after being requested to do so by the senior councillor and assured him that in the DA he would not be victimised if he has a genuine case to make.”
“I deny initiating any contact with these two councillors or offering them any favours or promises of promotions if they cooperated by giving any false statements regarding and against Mike Waters. I do not know whether Mike Waters is guilty or not, but what is clear is that the matter needs to be thoroughly investigated.”
There remain many unanswered questions. Among them: why would the Gauteng provincial leader risk torpedoing an apparently stellar 20-year career to smear the reputation of a fellow party member with whom he was not in contestation for any party post?
Waters suggests the answer to this lies in longstanding conflict between the two “due to [Moodey’s] vehement ideological commitment to race-based nationalism in opposition to my well-known and strident classic Liberal approach”.
In other words: the DA’s central conflict in a nutshell.
An even more pressing question, however, is: why would the DA be publicly presenting Moodey’s guilt in the matter as a fait accompli when – by the open admission of the federal legal commission’s deputy chair – the matter is still considered an “ongoing investigation”?
The saga is already taking on the distinct hues of the DA’s disastrous handling of the disciplinary proceedings involving former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille – where for some time the party apparently expected the public and the media to take it on trust that compelling evidence existed against De Lille without being willing to release such evidence.
As things stand, the reputation of two senior DA figures hangs in the balance – and the DA’s leadership shows little signs of engaging in any introspection about the now-familiar critiques of the party delivered by Moodey upon his resignation.
And on one point, Moodey was correct. In his resignation press briefing, Moodey claimed that six out of nine provincial DA leaders were facing disciplinary charges – a point he raised to show how rampant such practices have become.
Daily Maverick was initially told flatly by the party’s federal legal commission that this was “not true”, while on Thursday Horn said he did not have the necessary information to hand – but “it is definitely not the case that six out of nine are to face formal disciplinary hearings”.
That may be technically accurate – but a document in possession of Daily Maverick shows that Moodey’s claim was also true.
The federal legal commission’s report to the party’s federal executive, dated August 2020, does indeed list six provincial leaders – including Moodey – in a table of “disciplinary matters” laying out “charged members”.
The provincial leaders who have been charged besides Moodey are:
- Northern Cape’s Andrew Louw (investigation underway);
- Limpopo’s Jacques Smalle (disciplinary hearing to be held);
- Mpumalanga’s Jane Sithole (awaiting final investigation report);
- Eastern Cape’s Nqaba Bhanga (investigation underway), and
- KwaZulu-Natal’s Zwakele Mncwango (report ready to present to Fedex).
This report has already been distributed to the party’s federal executive. Yet, when Daily Maverick asked about the charges pending against provincial leaders at Thursday’s press briefing, Steenhuisen replied that he had no access to this information due to the “firewall” that exists between the federal legal commission’s proceedings and the leader.
The party must now ready itself for the policy conference it is holding this weekend – but the messy events of the week are likely to hang in the air for quite some time. DM