South Africa


Paul Mashatile’s presidential ambitions lose lustre in harsh glare of news spotlight

Paul Mashatile’s presidential ambitions lose lustre in harsh glare of news spotlight
Paul Mashatile in Cape Town, South Africa, 27 February 2018. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

There has been intense speculation about if, or when, Deputy President Paul Mashatile could ascend to the top job. This week, a report about his private life and well-supported claims he had access to properties owned by people who benefitted from State Capture, raised questions about his politics and his motivations. Mashatile’s response did not answer all of the questions — which may well affect what appears to be his plan to ascend to the presidency.

On Monday, News24 published a detailed report indicating that, until recently, Deputy President Paul Mashatile had the regular use of a property owned by businessman Edwin Sodi. 

Sodi currently faces charges of benefitting from State Capture. The Zondo Commission made a finding that the National Prosecuting Authority should consider charging him for his role in the asbestos scandal in the Free State. 

The Cape Town property at which Mashatile stayed has now been seized from Sodi by the state.  

To put this crisply, a property used regularly by our Deputy President has now been seized by the state on the basis that it was the proceeds of crime. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Mashatile responded publicly to the claims in a statement, in which he described News24’s report as a “report hit” and said the allegations against him are unsubstantiated. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of the statement is this paragraph:

“The Deputy President has never awarded, influenced, or in any way caused any state or public sector contract to be awarded to the individuals and companies mentioned by News24. Nor does the Deputy President have ownership or permanent use of any properties bought by these individuals and companies. The Deputy President would challenge anyone to prove otherwise.” 

This raises a number of questions. 

Does it mean that he has caused some contracts to be given to other individuals and companies? And, if he has, which contracts did he play a role in? 

Then there is the careful choice of words in his claim that he does not have “ownership or permanent use of” these properties. 

This clearly suggests that a major part of News24’s claim is true, that indeed he was using these properties. And it stops short of denying that he used them, or uses them, regularly. 

Mashatile also does not deny having a relationship with Sodi, or the other businessperson mentioned in the report, Ndavhe Mareda. Rather, he says, “Naturally, some of the people he has interacted with throughout that long time have become close personal associates. There is nothing wrong or unusual about this, and the attempt to scandalise such associations is unfortunate.” 

All of this may be true. 

But it is also almost exactly what former President Jacob Zuma said about his relationship with the Gupta family, that he was merely “friends” with them. He also said that claims he had a business relationship with them were merely “rumours”. 

As we now know, Zuma was lying, and the Guptas benefitted from his political support to the tune of at least around R50-billion.

Businessman Edwin Sodi testifies at the Commission of Inquiry Into State Capture on 19 August 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

Read more in Daily Maverick: The total(ish) cost of the Guptas’ State Capture: R49,157,323,233.68 

At the time, the Guptas had not been formally charged. In Mashatile’s case, Sodi has been formally charged with corruption, which surely makes questions about the nature of this relationship even more urgent. 

And, of course, just because one politician had a corrupt relationship with a group of people does not mean that another politician now has a corrupt relationship with a different group of people. 

Why no actual answers?

Mashatile’s refusal so far to directly answer questions about this also raises some concerns. It’s easy enough to put out a statement. But to really respond to these claims requires more than a statement or some half-hearted answer to a question in Parliament. For Mashatile, a much more effective strategy would be to actually answer the questions this raises. And to be seen to be answering them. 

This he has failed to do. 

It is certainly curious that he refused to answer News24’s questions before it published its first report. Why? What did he have to lose? 

The News24 report and Mashatile’s response come in a context in which it appears there has been a whispering campaign suggesting he could become President sooner rather than later. 

This may explain Mashatile’s public declaration of loyalty to President Cyril Ramaphosa in his statement, where suggestions he wants to be President are “strenuously denied”. 

One of the reasons that Mashatile is so vulnerable to the claim that he is trying to campaign for the top job is the strange behaviour of Ramaphosa himself. 

As the political analyst Ralph Mathekga put it on SAfm on Thursday morning, Ramaphosa has created a political vacuum. In other words, despite the Presidency’s repeated claims that Ramaphosa has not “checked out” of his job, in the absence of public leadership from him, people will look to whoever is next in line. 

Unfortunately for Mashatile, this recent reporting is not the only claim that could define his image. 

Earlier this year, a woman called Gugu Nkosi told You magazine and other publications that he “sponsored her travels overseas … showing us SMS notifications of payments from R200,000 to R500,000 she says are from Paul”. 

Mashatile’s associate Keith Khoza has laid criminal charges against Nkosi over her conduct.  

The key question is how Mashatile would be able to afford to pay for Nkosi’s “travels overseas”. In his previous job as ANC treasurer, he did not earn a large salary. And yet, he appears to have been living a life of luxury, while workers at Luthuli House were not paid salaries because the ANC had run out of money.  

Not a well-known figure

Meanwhile, one of the problems that Mashatile faces if he is in fact on a quest for the presidency is that most voters don’t know very much about him. 

If you look at our previous Presidents who were first Deputy Presidents, all were well-known beforehand. Ramaphosa, Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki were all national figures before becoming Deputy President. 

While Mashatile was minister of arts and culture, most of his political work was in Gauteng, in his role as Gauteng leader of the ANC. 

This means that he may have to shape a narrative or an image around him, to convince the electorate to give him their votes. And a statement denying claims will not be enough. For him to help the ANC to win an election, voters will need an image of him not formed only by claims of corruption. 

To achieve this, he would have to speak more often in public and give broadcast interviews to radio and television stations across the country. But each interview could also put him in political danger. 

Such is the speculation about whether he will be our next President, it is likely that there will be many more investigations into his life and his relationships. 

Which means that his future could be determined by how he responds to any claims that arise. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Corrupt and crooked friends: birds of a feather flock together.

    • Iam Fedup says:

      And why, pray, are we surprised that the presidency is tainted by fools and thieves? When we stay it goes right to the top we mean right to the top, Ramaphosa included. I believe there are some Russian mercenaries with some free time on their hands right now.

  • Dee Bee says:

    Mashatile has plenty to answer for. Like Zuma and Mbalula, he lives way beyond his means (not unique to them, many South Africans choose to, rather than are forced to like most of us), and has done so for years. These revelations around his use of Sodi’s and Mareda’s mansions and largesse should be seen in the context of his history: when he was Gauteng Finance MEC, he blew R250K on dinners at restaurants in five months, including one that cost almost R100,000 – in 2005/6 Rands, (R350K in todays terms). He was never held to account, being defended by amongst others, Trevor Manuel, the then Finance Minister (who also told opposition MPs to get over Ministers, MEC and others spending millions on luxury vehicles, lest we forget).

    Before that, there were the whisperings around Mashatile and the ‘Alex Mafia’ and their gorging on R1.3bn of the R3bn Alex Renewal Project that was unaccounted for – a project that delivered precisely the square root of F.A. benefit to residents, but made politically connected people very wealthy. As Pravin Gordhan said before he lost his backbone ‘join the dots’. Mashatile was Human Settlements MEC at the time.

    Finally, even if he is 100% innocent of these allegations, it shows appalling lack of judgement to associate with, and benefit from, the likes of Sodi with grim reputations and charges against them. Can you trust a man to be president who invokes the Zuma ‘friendship’ clause in his defence? I can’t. Keep digging, honourable media!

    • Dee Bee says:

      Just a correction – R100K in todays terms is R260K, not R350K. So his 5 month lunch bill today would be in the region of R654K. The R1.3bn allegedly missing would be R3.4bn!

  • Alley Cat says:

    “For him to help the ANC to win an election, voters will need an image of him not formed only by claims of corruption” – I have to disagree. If this were true, the ANC would have been ousted years ago.

    • Henry Henry says:

      In a normal society (not a kleptocray) such a politician would have been toast:
      “To put this crisply, a property used regularly by our Deputy President has now been seized by the state on the basis that it was the proceeds of crime.”
      Yet, ironically, the RSA is a constitutional democracy?

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    SA has come to expect that there is not an honest, moral and untainted anc leader, if one can call them that. They are all corrupt, dishonest, criminal and predatory – it is just the level that varies. It is in the anc DNA to steal under the guise of transformation, BEE etc. I would urge the media, that stands up for the best, honest and accountable interests of this country, to keep on digging to expose these charlatans masquerading as fighting for the poor and the people. It was only recently that almost half the anc threw their weight behind Mkhize as a presidential candidate – that says it all about this rotten and putrid party. Not that we need reminding!

  • Soil Merchant says:

    In light of being “merely ‘friends'”, Osama Bin Laden was friends with the Bush’s … that went well?

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Our government critters prefer dark, furtive scurrying and scrabbling.

    When light shines on them they do their deer trick; freeze and wait for it to move on.

    There isn’t a single lustrous one among them.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Why is Edwin Sodi always referred to as a businessman? Is he not rather a gangster in the mould of Al Capone with his fiefdom being Alex?

    It is not the job of any journalist to be anyone’s PR manager, and descriptions and epithets should be used more appropriately, and whilst many journalists might personally believe that describing someone as a “business person” is insult enough, this does not meet the vision and understanding of most readers.

  • Dragon Slayer says:

    Kakistocracy is an real English term that refers to a form of government in which the ruling power or authority is held by the least qualified or most unscrupulous individuals. It is time to accept that this defines the ANC and that an honest individual is unlikely to exist at any level or sphere of government where they are in power. Shameless, undignified and rotten to the core!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    The more dishonest and crooked you are, the higher you climb within the ANC.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Wondered how long it would take. This goes back to the start of Cosmo city days!

  • Johann Olivier says:

    As I’ve always ruminated: shop steward to billionaire in a scant 10 years with no known original activity, or invention. Merely smarter state capture. Well, until The Squirrel was outed. Why the wide-eyed surprise that his sidekick is anything but cut of the same couch cloth?

  • Rob Scott says:

    Our political leaders have the morality of snakes and should be treated with the contempt they deserve. Civil society must hound them until they leave our shores like the Guptas.

  • mcgmeyer says:

    The truly sad thing is that the electorate will generally not see the fact that their leaders are living large, way above what their legal income allows, as a problem. Reports of this to the DM readership will raise the ire of these readers but unfortunately will have little impact on the popularity of the politician. The fact the Julius is touting him as the future is really scary as we have seen where his judgement has taken us before.

    • Eulalie Spamer says:

      I fear you are right. Living the life of Bling at taxpayers expense is a goal to be achieved and envied, not despised.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Mashatile only has to win over the ANC to become president of SA. They choose their president. People mostly vote for a party not the individual candidate. So if the voters choose ANC we’re stuck with whoever they picked.

  • waynewright257 says:

    Yet the general populace of SA vote for these these people election after election. Do they not realise that their hard earned taxes are being squandered?

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