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Revealed — one in six SA political party leaders has a shady past

Revealed — one in six SA political party leaders has a shady past
Illustrative image: From left: Ace Magashule. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla) | Gayton McKenzie. (Photo: Shelley Christians) | Chockalingam ‘Roy’ Moodley. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thuli Dlami) | Masizole Mnqasela. (Photo: Shelley Christians) | Marius Fransman. (Photo: Gallo Images / Misha Jordaan) | Johan Reid. | Hlaudi Motsoeneng. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu) | Julius Malema. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Leon Sadiki)

Nine of the candidates topping political party lists to contest next month’s general elections have a chequered past. They include a State Capture kingpin and an ANC veteran booted out for sexual harassment.

At least 17% — one in six — of the individuals who have put their hands up to be South Africa’s next president have faced accusations of significant wrongdoing.

But only one — former president Jacob Zuma — looks set to be excluded from the ballot. The Constitution bars the election of anyone convicted and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment without the option of a fine, but this prohibition ceases to apply five years after the sentence is completed.

In the majority of cases listed below, the political leaders in question have never received a criminal conviction, meaning they are legally eligible to be voted into the National Assembly.

Of the 52 parties now slated to appear on the national ballot on 29 May, nine have submitted lists topped by a character with a controversial history.

This is, remarkably, a slight improvement from the 2019 party lists, when we found that one in five leaders had previously faced criminal charges, professional sanctions or compelling evidence of wrongdoing for which they had yet to be prosecuted.

The leaders in question, alphabetically via party name, are as follows:

African Congress for Transformation: Ace Magashule

Magashule was booted out as secretary-general of his original party, the ANC, thanks to his refusal to comply with the step-aside rule adopted in 2021 which stipulates that party leaders facing serious criminal charges must relinquish their positions. Magashule has been charged with corruption and fraud relating to a R255-million 2014 Free State tender to replace asbestos house roofs. Magashule was the premier of the province at the time and is still awaiting the formal start of his trial alongside 18 co-accused.

Magashule launched his party, the African Congress for Transformation (ACT), in August 2023. The party’s major advocacy appears to be around land. In February, he told SABC: “We are going to take North West; we are going to take Free State; we are going to take the Northern Cape.”

Ace Magashule unveils his new political party, African Congress for Transformation on Vilakazi Street in Soweto on 30 August 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

African Content Movement: Hlaudi Motsoeneng

Former SABC COO Motsoeneng was found by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in 2014 to have committed fraud by misrepresenting his qualifications; to have abused his powers to approve three salary increases for himself in a single year; and to have purged the broadcaster of his rivals without following proper procedures. The courts have ruled that he must pay the SABC back about R11.5-million for improper payments he received.

Motsoeneng told TechCentral late last year that he does not have the slightest intention of complying, and maintains that the SABC owes him an additional R22-million for his superb work at the broadcaster.

In the 2019 general election, Motsoeneng ran with former Idols SA judge Marah Louw as his number two. They garnered just under 5,000 votes, making an ascent to Parliament a distant dream. Yet the party appears to have four seats in municipalities in Free State and Gauteng after the 2021 local government elections.

Former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng during the Zondo Commission in Parktown Johannesburg, 11 September 2019. (PHOTO: ANTONIO MUCHAVE / SOWETAN)

African Movement Congress: Roy Chockalingam Moodley

Moodley, who has been described as a “State Capture kingpin”, registered his African Movement Congress in August 2023. The party describes itself on its website as a “vigorous vanguard organisation that leads and represent [sic] previous and present, the revolutionary [sic] of our masses in the fight against racism and the class enemy”.

Moodley has been most vigorous in other departments. Daily Maverick’s Pieter-Louis Myburgh reported in June 2023 that Moodley and his businesses “have been implicated in some of the foremost alleged State Capture schemes during the tenure of former president Jacob Zuma”. His particular tender trough appears to have been Prasa. To the embarrassment of the DA, however, Myburgh also exposed the fact that Moodley was awarded a R282-million security contract by the Western Cape government in 2023.

Businessman Roy Moodley and former president Jacob Zuma at the Durban July in 2010. (Photo: Gold Circle)

Alliance of Citizens for Change: Masizole Mnqasela

Mnqasela, like the majority of men — all are men — on this list, has never faced formal charges. But he was axed from his political home of the DA in December 2022 following allegations of fraud and corruption relating to his expense claims — charges he has always denied.

At the time of his ousting, Mnqasela swore eternal fealty to the DA, saying: “My blood runs royal blue”. Six months later he started his party, the Alliance of Citizens for Change.

ACC leader Masizole Mnqasela protests in Hanover Street before the 2024 Budget Speech held at the Cape Town City Hall, 21 February 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Economic Freedom Fighters: Julius Malema

Malema has had well-documented run-ins with the taxman, Parliament and various courts: he is still facing charges of contravening the Firearms Control Act after allegedly firing an automatic weapon into the air at the EFF’s fifth birthday rally in 2018.

Lest we forget, he was also the subject of a damning Public Protector report from Thuli Madonsela in 2012 — which found that Malema’s company On-Point Engineering was guilty of “unlawful, fraudulent and corrupt conduct” relating to a R52-million Limpopo contract.

Daily Maverick’s Pauli van Wyk has exposed how Malema and EFF second-in-command Floyd Shivambu allegedly participated in the massive fraud around VBS Mutual Bank, with the proceeds channelled towards both men’s lifestyles and the maintenance of the party they lead.

Julius Malema at the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Election Manifesto Launch at Moses Mabhida Stadium on 10 February 2024 in Durban. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Free Democrats: Johan Reid

Dr Johan Reid (Photo: Facebook)

Cape Town neurologist Dr Johan Reid, the founder of the Free Democrats, has tangled with medical industry bodies on numerous occasions related to charges of sexual harassment, unprofessional conduct and billing patients for unnecessary procedures. In March 2011, the Sunday Times reported how Reid “treated a female patient suffering from a headache by asking her to strip down to just her G-string before giving her an injection”.

Perhaps appropriately, given that one of the charges Reid has faced before has been of “Prejudicing the patient or medical scheme responsible for paying the accounts because of exorbitant and/or unnecessarily high costs”, Reid’s political party appears to be premised on a single issue: to lobby for private healthcare.

Patriotic Alliance: Gayton McKenzie

One of the larger rogues of this particular rogues’ gallery, McKenzie is a convicted armed robber who spent seven years in prison before receiving a presidential pardon. (Sufficient time has elapsed since his sentence to enable him to stand for public office.)

His political party, the Patriotic Alliance, has repeatedly been accused of close ties to gangs.

the gathering gayton mckenzie

Gayton McKenzie speaks at The Big Debate during The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four Election Edition at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 14 March 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

People’s Movement for Change: Marius Fransman

Fransman, the former ANC leader in the Western Cape, was axed from the party in November 2016 following allegations of sexual harassment. The National Prosecuting Authority initially said it would prosecute Fransman on two charges of crimen injuria and sexual assault, involving a younger female staffer, but in 2019 withdrew the charges after “informal mediation” between Fransman and his alleged victim. The ANC’s own investigation, however, found Fransman guilty of two counts of misconduct.

The People’s Movement for Change was founded by Fransman in November 2023 alongside disgruntled émigrés from other parties. The DA’s former Cape Town mayor Dan Plato is one of those who have joined Fransman, but appears only at third position on the party’s regional list for the Eastern Cape and the party’s provincial list for the Western Cape.

Marius Fransman. (Photo: GCIS / Flickr)

uMkhonto Wesizwe: Jacob Zuma

Finally, the big daddy — and the only member of the list who looks likely to be banned from contesting the elections. The block to Zuma’s eligibility is the contempt of court conviction he received as a result of the former president’s refusal to cooperate with the State Capture inquiry — rather than, say, the 16 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering linked to the Arms Deal which he has been evading for two decades.

 Jacob Zuma addressing a rally during the African National Congress (ANC) and uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party court case in respect of the MK party trademark heard at the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court in Durban on 27 March 2024. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Trivia Quiz: Know Your Party Leader!

Q: Which party leader describes himself as a “self-driven Counter-intelligence Officer with an extensive background and training in Criminal and Corporate Investigation”?

A: That would be Lehlohonolo Wonderboy Mahlatsi, from United Africans Transformation.

Q: Which party list-topper cannot legally buy alcohol in the United States?

A: The Referendum Party’s number one, Robert King, who appears to be all of 20 years old.

Q: Which party leader is a member of a royal family?

A: Princess Dipuo Mthembu, the “Head Princess of Batlharo Kingdom”, of the South African Royal Kingdoms Organisation.

Q: Which party leader previously held a significant role in the corporate world?

A: The CitiZAns’ Jan Moganwa, formerly the CEO of retail banking for Barclays Africa

Q: Which party leader describes himself as follows on LinkedIn: “Slave of Christ & CEO at Qualicores & Tubes Pty Ltd”?

A: Samuel Kennedy, leader of the Conservatives in Action

Q: Which party leader is the recipient of the Order of Luthuli in silver?

A: Africa Africans Reclaim leader General Maomela Motau, who received the national order in 2018 for his “invaluable work in the redevelopment of countries torn by civil wars”. DM


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