South Africa


To stand a chance in fight against corruption, ANC must empower its integrity commission, or else

To stand a chance in fight against corruption, ANC must empower its integrity commission, or else
From left: Former minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo) | Chair of the ANC’s Integrity Commission George Mashamba. (Photo: Supplied) | David Mahlobo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

While the ANC’s national policy conference resolved to retain the ‘step-aside’ resolution, it is becoming more obvious that one of the big issues facing the party ahead of the 2024 elections is its inability to fight corruption.

A series of developments at the ANC’s recent national policy conference would appear to again confirm its impotence in fighting corruption within its ranks — and an interview with the chair of the ANC’s integrity commission, George Mashamba, may be particularly revealing of its inability to actually do anything about notoriously corrupt people like Mosebenzi Zwane and David Mahlobo.

It was former president Kgalema Motlanthe who shone a light on what may be a way forward for the party. And yet, at this very same event, the actions of National Executive Committee (NEC) member Tony Yengeni once again point to the long-term consequences of the ANC’s failure to follow its own constitution.

When opening the conference, President Cyril Ramaphosa made a forceful statement, stating that South Africa “would never forgive” the ANC for “turning its back” on the fight against corruption. It was an example of how both he and the party publicly claim that they are determined to root out those who are corrupt from their ranks.

Key to this is how the party has reacted to the Zondo Commission’s findings that its top officials were corrupt as hell, and in at least one case, was a “Gupta minister”. So important is this to the ANC that it devoted an entire session of its policy conference to discuss just this issue.

But away from the plenary hall, there were indications that not one of those who were implicated in State Capture is at all concerned. 

In what can only be described as an extraordinary interview on Newzroom Afrika, the chair of the ANC’s integrity committee, Mashamba, gave this writer every impression that the party is simply not serious about corruption.

Two weeks ago, the NEC said that those implicated in the Zondo Commission’s final report must willingly go to Mashamba’s commission to explain themselves. They were given two months to do so.

But Mashamba confirmed that not one person had reported to his committee since the NEC decision.

When asked if he was disappointed by that, he said: “No, no … I forget, they say they will send a list … I don’t know, but maybe after this [the policy conference] they will be able to give us a list of people mentioned there.”

When I told him that the fight against corruption was vital to the ANC and that “the body that you chair, the integrity [commission] is absolutely vital to that”, his response was to laugh and say: “I don’t know about it, fine, okay.”

My response was: “You don’t think you are vital to it?”

This elicited a stronger, more substantive response, with Mashamba saying: “Well, there is a commission and an elected leadership… We deal with the issues of the organisation, we deal with whatever little thing we have to deal with. I call it little because there are other commissions and other committees; we make our input and they decide what to do.”

Then came more details, with a question about Mosebenzi Zwane, who was labelled a “Gupta minister” by the Zondo report.

The question was put like this: “If the ANC was serious [about fighting corruption], David Mahlobo and Mosebenzi Zwane would be scared of your organisation. The first moment they had, they would come and report to you when the NEC said they should. They wouldn’t wait two months or six months, they would come to you immediately if they took the ANC’s fight against corruption seriously.

“To me, the fact that David Mahlobo and Mosebenzi Zwane have not done that, as you have confirmed to us, says they are not worried, and that, to me, says they don’t believe the ANC is going to take corruption seriously.”

What’s really happening

It was an important question, which may take us closer to what is really happening in the ANC.

In response, Mashamba – remember, he’s the chair of the ANC’s Integrity Commission – said: “I’ve never said they’re not worried. Perceptions are perceptions. I can’t say you are wrong or right.”

This may demonstrate that the ANC simply does not take its own integrity commission seriously.

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It is important to point out that Mashamba and the members of his commission should not be blamed personally for this. He is a veteran leader of the ANC. He has given much of his life to the Struggle for freedom and democracy. And he may only be playing the hand that he has been dealt.

Rather, this demonstrates that he is a victim of the way his commission was structured and of the current ANC leadership. 

This is not the first time this has happened.

The commission’s first chairman was Andrew Mlangeni. His appointment was announced by the then ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe in 2013. But the announcement was made before Mlangeni himself was informed of it. As he told me (while I was writing for Business Day), he had “only heard about it on the television”.

Considering the price that Mlangeni had already paid for the ANC, to treat him in this way was plain immoral.

It appears Mashamba is being treated in the same way – as someone who can be safely ignored.

The consequences of this are there for all to see.

At the same conference this weekend, the former convict Tony Yengeni tweeted an image from what appeared to be inside what was supposed to be a confidential commission discussion.

The picture was of Amos Masondo, asleep, with the message, “Eish..! NCOP chair already asleep before 12pm”.

It seems likely, if this was an image from inside a confidential commission discussion, that Yengeni was breaking ANC rules. Not for the first time.

Meanwhile, Motlanthe gave a series of interviews during the conference.

And he consistently made the point that in his understanding of the ANC’s constitution, a person convicted of a serious offence cannot belong to the party, and should be expelled. This would presumably apply to Yengeni who was convicted of corruption during the Arms Deal. (He was, famously, carried to prison on the shoulders of ANC leaders.)

Motlanthe also has a solution to the current situation, suggesting that the real problem is in the way the integrity commission is set up: 

“They have no authority to ensure that the NEC actually acts on their recommendations. That’s something that may have to be strengthened by giving them original authority. Because, at the moment, they are a sub-structure of the NEC. And I think they do need original authority from the conference itself so that they can act and ensure their recommendations and decisions are given effect.”

Motlanthe is on pretty firm ground here. The weakness of the system lies in the structure, where the integrity commission can only make recommendations to the NEC. In an NEC containing so many people implicated in the Zondo findings, who can expect that they will act against themselves?

But it is also about the actions of individuals. Why has Mashamba been put in this position? Why was Mlangeni treated the way he was? Particularly when both surely deserve better from the organisation for which they have sacrificed so much.

All of this could be important for our political future. If it is true that the ANC is impotent in its fight against its own corruption, it will be less likely to regain voters in 2024.

And that could have the most profound consequences for the party and our nation. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Nailed it, Stephen: the ANC itself doesn’t take the need for integrity of its members seriously, never has, and never will. It is not called a criminal syndicate for no reason. Mathanthe has always been written off as a has-been. Possibly the most integritous of our past presidents was written off because he’s too honest.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    The ANC do have the ability to fight corruption. The problem is they simply dont want to. From the president all the way through the ranks.

  • John Smythe says:

    The ANC step-aside debate has been going on for years and they’ve only managed to get a handful of corrupt politicians to step aside. And even those are mired in controversy because they all run off to the RET faction for somebody’s shoulder to cry on. It’s still essentially in a state of limbo and probably will be forever because it’s the rot and factions are so deep that almost all of them would have to step aside. And then the party won’t exist anymore. It can only mean a good thing for the country.

  • Robert Mitchell says:

    Its another ANC joke. they send those with allegations to their own integrity committee and then wham, they are suddenly not guilty and carry on looting, while sending a bottle of blue label to the committee. Well Range rover and Merc are still happy. we are spending most of our taxes on buying their cars.

  • Jeremy Stephenson says:

    The Zondo Commission indeed pointed out that the Integrity Commission has zero power. Furthermore, its Disciplinary Committee dealt with zero cases involving corruption during the period under review, even though plenty of evidence of such had been brought to the attention of the party.
    The fact that the step aside rule is even on the agenda in the first place tells you everything you need to know about how seriously the ANC takes it’s own faux ethical standards.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Funny all ANC politicians talking about corruption have all been at it in one way or another over the years. As with Eskom they talk in the 3rd party as though some other ANC was behind it.
    Not fit for purpose any of them.

  • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

    I also agree as Dennis does, and to a certain degree it feels to me as if writing an article like this doesd not add much value to the discussion. We know about the integrity deficit that the ANC is struggling with. We also know that the leadership talk about sorting it out is hollow. With that in mind, why make the point yet again. The story is confirmation of known facts so not really new news. I must however admit that I did not expect the despondent tone that lay in the answers.

  • Colin Beard says:

    Here’s an idea. How about we abandon the legitimate-sounding term “RET faction” and refer to them as what they are. The Corruption faction.

  • Clive McGill says:

    Yes Stephen – the ‘Integrity Commission’ is anything but that, and Mashamba is no more than a figurehead in charge of an office with no teeth. They can only make recommendations, and ANC members don’t seem to be beholden to it at all. I actually cringed when I watched the clip of the interview with you and Mashamba. You are right – he is almost embarrassed at his lack of ability to do anything.

    • Hilary Morris says:

      Not sure that I agree that he was embarrassed, seemed more incredulous at the thought that he might have the power to act against his “employers”. He may well have been appointed for his respect for authority. He gave the appearance of being a pensioner, grateful to be of use, limited though it is.

  • Robert Purves says:

    With the ANC protesting in Krugersdorp against a lack of governace by the governing party, there is precedence that they can act against themselves.

  • Ian Callender-Easby says:

    Seriously, what can else can you expect from the ANC?

  • André Pelser says:

    Self-policing by political parties does not work, particularly with the ANC. How many cadres that stepped aside are still on full pay and benefits, funded by the taxpayer? We need a special court to deal with corruption cases and speedy adjudication. A high court judge has avoided prosecution for a strong case against him for a decade. Wealthy individuals prolong proceedings. Witnesses are threatened and fade away. The rule of law is tenuous in a mafia state.

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