South Africa


Gwede Mantashe’s challenge to Zondo will further damage the ANC and its standing

Gwede Mantashe’s challenge to Zondo will further damage the ANC and its standing
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Veli Nhlapo) | Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)

At the very moment that the ANC is trying to renew itself, when it is under more electoral pressure than ever before, the ANC chair and energy and mineral resources minister has decided to further rattle the cage.

Gwede Mantashe, the ANC chair and energy and mineral resources minister, says he will be the first person in the ANC to challenge the findings of the Zondo Commission report. This poses a massive headache for President Cyril Ramaphosa. It also contradicts the ANC’s public comments about the commission up until this point.

His stance exposes the political potholes the commission’s findings pose for the ANC, and it is possible that Mantashe will now become the gathering point for these obstacles.

On Tuesday night, the third instalment of the Zondo Commission report was published. It said Bosasa had paid for work done at two of Mantashe’s properties in the Eastern Cape and one in Gauteng. The report says that “…the provision of free security installations was manifestly part of the corrupt modus operandi of Bosasa and its directors.”

Charge Zuma, Mokonyane and Mantashe for Bosasa graft, State Capture report recommends

On Wednesday afternoon, Mantashe held a press conference at the offices of his department. He told journalists he would challenge Zondo’s explosive findings.

It is not clear why he held the briefing at his official government office while the findings are about his conduct while he was the secretary-general of the ANC.

It is important to note that Mantashe is the first person in the ANC to challenge these findings. He is not someone who has been seen as part of the “RET faction” of the ANC. Rather, he has been viewed as a supporter of Ramaphosa.

Perhaps more importantly, he has also supported the agenda of “renewal” in the party. This means that someone who has supported the commission, supported the changes the ANC is allegedly undergoing, and still supports its “reformist president”, is now throwing a massive spanner into the wheels of the very same commission.

This gets down to the major problem the party faces from the inquiry.

The commission was always about the corruption in the ANC itself, particularly the testimony around Bosasa.

Should Mantashe have to defend this in court, either during his civil application to overturn the findings or in a criminal case, perhaps the most important question would be this: Why would Bosasa pay for upgrades to his home? What possible reason could there be for this?

Considering his position at the time (ANC secretary-general), it would have to have been for his political influence. It could not have been for any other reason.

These findings may well be a reminder of how deep and pervasive corruption has become in the ANC. Even those not thought to have been a part of the Gupta-led State Capture project, such as Mantashe, were allegedly involved in corrupt dealings.

And this may be the reason why the DA’s claim, that the ANC is an organised crime syndicate, could sting so much.

However, the real issue may now be whether Ramaphosa is able to act against Mantashe and remove him from the Cabinet.

Mantashe would surely argue that he is going to court and that the findings against him could be overturned, so there is still a lot of time before he exhausts all his rights.

Still, for him to remain in the Cabinet will undermine Ramaphosa’s public commitment to the ANC’s corruption fight and the party’s claim that it is going through a process of renewal.

Just ahead of an ANC leadership conference, for Ramaphosa to take any action against Mantashe would surely be risky. Mantashe is known to be one of the foremost political brains in the movement – he was even able to outmanoeuvre the then President, Jacob Zuma, in the run-up to the Nasrec conference.

He is not the kind of person that Ramaphosa would want as an enemy. But… if Ramaphosa does not act against him, he cannot really act against anyone else.

This would turn into a non-prospect of widening the ANC’s step-aside resolution, meaning that only those formally charged in court with corruption would ever have to step aside.

It would also incentivise challenging each and every decision made in the prosecution of corruption. A person charged would surely legally challenge the decision, thus allowing them to avoid stepping down, and render the entire resolution null and void. 

Of course, Mantashe’s actions in challenging the report’s findings are likely to inspire others to do the same. It is entirely reasonable to expect that seasoned Stalingrad practitioners like Malusi Gigaba will follow his lead.

Many copycats of Mantashe could simply forestall the consequences of the report and possibly further delay any prosecutions from the National Prosecuting Authority.

All of this leads to an important debate.

Up until this point, many people accused of corruption have relied on technical legal arguments to retain their position. The most famous is the ANC’s oft-repeated claim that someone is “innocent until proven guilty” and should be treated as such. Of course, they meant “innocent until they squeezed every drop of time out of every last platform for appeal”.

But the moral question is very different.

Mantashe received upgrades to his home from a private company – a company involved in doing extensive business with the state, a company found by the commission to have obtained business through corruption. If he were not the secretary-general of the governing party, would he have received any help?

It is surely the case that Mantashe committed an immoral act. So, why does he feel that he can remain in office and conduct technical legal arguments?

The answer may lie in the recent past.

For many years ANC leaders have used this strategy and remained in office, Zuma being the prime example.

During those times the ANC was guaranteed a majority of votes.

On the evidence, that is no longer the case. It is entirely possible that the ANC will fall below 50% in 2024 (or even lower).

The ANC at 40% in 2024 could bring chaos to an already unsteady democracy

This may be the real damage that Mantashe does to his party: that at the very moment that the ANC is trying to renew itself, when it is under more electoral pressure than ever before, he has decided to further rattle the cage.

The process could badly frustrate Ramaphosa’s “renewal” agenda.

It is entirely possible that Mantashe and others fail to understand the massive anger at the ANC. Or, at the very least, they grievously underestimate it.

There is a mess of contradictions in Mantashe’s stance and in his conduct. But contradictions defined Mantashe’s time as ANC secretary-general. He showed that he could balance constituencies even though his statements often contradicted himself.

But that was when he was managing the different factions in a political party. Here, he will be managing the consequences of his own actions. This will be much harder to accomplish.

Either way, it appears likely that Mantashe’s decision to challenge these findings will weaken the ANC, his President, and in the end, probably himself. DM


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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Craig B says:

    Chewing gum in hair

  • Laurence Erasmus says:

    The ANC is a criminal gang from the head down! Gwede as SG knows very well that receipt of the Bosasa largesse is morally indefensible but hey criminals are not strong on morals!

  • Johan Fick says:

    Are we seeing the signs of Putin styl Oligarchies in the ANC?

  • MIKE WEBB says:

    Mantashe is the most dangerous Communist outside Russia.

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    The Zondo Commission and the subsequent scandals relating to CoVID-19 health procurement and Digital Vibes, among other examples, clearly indicates that there is no significant difference between different factions in the ANC in relation to corruption and maladministration, and the futility of any efforts to “renew” the party. The impact of the “renewal” faction has been negligible, and members who are found to have been engaged in corruption adopt the same tactics to stay in office. There is no possibility for renewal of the party. The only option is for the ANC to be voted out of office, and for other parties to step up. Civil society has an important role to facilitate this necessary evolution.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Right. So pick an opposition party with the best odds to get the anc out or to weaken them a lot. That party is NOT the Good Party. They are anc proxies.

  • Joe Irwin says:

    Mantashe will challenge the commissions finding against him until the cows come home. Doing so will cast a lifeline to the rest of the gang, resulting in every accused cadre jumping on the bandwagon.

    • Gordon Pascoe says:

      But maybe, just maybe in doing so their deeds will be exposed in open court for all to read and spread the news, the wider the better.

  • Patrick Devine says:

    Mantashe (& Zuma & co) seriously believe that the laws of South Africa don’t apply to the big men of the ANC, the cadres.

    Receiving gratuities for Mantashe doesn’t mean he was in their pocket. Why? ‘Because everybody knows I am not corrupt’

    Animal Farm – just exchange the ‘pigs’ for the ‘cadres’.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    “foremost political brains in the movement”….that sums up this seriously confused man and the farce that is the ANC. Mantashe is truly gifted in terms of his extraordinary ability to torture truth and logic. Ever listened to him speak…incoherent, disjointed jumble 9f words which no one has a hope of understanding. And he is the ” foremost brains” ….we are in deeper trouble than we realize.

  • JAJ Stewart says:

    This is all so predictable.

  • Chris Green says:

    Congratulations Gwede. You have hiccupped your way to a glorious award – The Order of Luthuli in Silver for your unwavering success in leading the OCS (read ANC) – we thought of awarding it in Bronze but you achieved more than 30% – (thanks Angie for setting the standard)

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Any morally fit human being would not have put his/her President in the position of having to choose – he/she would do the right thing and offer to “step aside” while he/she fights to clear his/her name.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    Stephen, your point about the ethical or moral issue is valid and applicable in most normal business situations. However, these are ANC comrades trained by Russian oligarchs, so morality is irrelevant (but applies to everyone else.) They are innocent until – eventually proven guilty- and even then, a medical certificate works wonders. The rule of law only applies to us ordinary middle class citizens.

  • Tim Price says:

    It’s a fact the ANC is an organized criminal gang. Complete with assassinations.

  • Sue van der Walt says:

    I would suggest that these crooks be investigated for Tax Evasion – quicker, simpler to prove and difficult to defend.

  • Craig King says:

    He knows if there was a quid pro quo and he also knows it looks like there must have been. Either way if he loves South Africa he must step aside and allow the process to move forward. He knows that too.

  • R S says:

    Weaken the ANC? Great! Time for a new govt.

  • Nick Griffon says:

    The ANC is a criminal organisation. It is a mafia.
    The sooner this cANCer can eat itself up from the inside, the better for SA.
    SA will NEVER grow as a country with these criminals making all the decisions.

  • Anne Felgate says:

    Who pays for his legal costs ?
    The taxpayer?
    Maybe they should have to pay out of their own pockets
    That will slow them down

  • Dhasagan Pillay says:

    All these and more happened because Gwede made sure it happened, as the power behind the throne, the architect of these dismal failures or as we so eloquently term them “own goals”, or the protector the evils going on around him. All of SA recalls Uncle Gweezy’s many press conferences telling SA that ANC MPs were in parliament to protect the President (Zuma) and to toe the party line because that’s what the constitutional democracy game he was playing to win was about. And if a proper reckoning leaves him feeling beset by the state, then he’ll gain some understanding of what ordinary South Africans have felt from the incompetence and misgovernance of the past two decades and change.

  • DONALD MOORE says:

    Thank you Stephen. I always enjoy your articles. The standard of your Daily Maverick journalism exceeds the standard of your early morning SABC show. I can’t blame you for the nonsense callers you host but I can blame you for letting them get away with their false statements too many times. Anyway that’s not my comment on this article. I am not sure what the time limits are but I think that anybody who wants to challenge any part of the Zondo Commission’s findings has to do so within certain time constraints. Many politicians have blustered (and Mr Mantashe does bluster) about how they will challenge or take adverse findings on review and do nothing thereafter. Let’s wait and see if Mr Mantashe will follow through. Then there will be good reason to comment.

  • Mthimkulu Mashiya says:

    “Many copycats of Mantashe could simply forestall the consequences of the report and possibly further delay any prosecutions from the National Prosecuting Authority.” I do not understand how and why the NPA should be held back by challenges of the Zondo Commission findings.

  • Hulme Scholes says:

    C – Cannot
    O – Organise
    M – Municipalities,
    R – Rule of law,
    A – Administration,
    D – Defence and
    E – Electricity

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Well duh – it’s because he’s implicated by the findings so he’s pretty unlikely to sing the commission’s praise from the rooftops.

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