Gwede Mantashe trended on Wednesday afternoon. Instead, the ANC chairperson and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy should have stepped aside from his position, along with the party’s head of campaigns, Nomvula Mokonyane. Both play starring roles in the latest Zondo Commission report, which found evidence against them of corruption and recommended that both should be further investigated.
The ANC’s step-aside rule says that when a member is charged with corruption, they must move aside from their positions until they are cleared. By refusing to do so, Mantashe is taking a literal rather than a principled reading of the party’s anti-corruption measure.
A judicial commission of inquiry is a legal process that tests every bit of testimony and evidence before it. Its findings, therefore, are not hearsay as Mantashe argued at a media conference on Wednesday.
Zondo’s findings against Mantashe and Mokonyane in his almost 1,000-page report are based on a dominant theme at the commission — the detailed investigation and forensic testing of how the logistics company Bosasa became a corruption factory.
Mantashe and Mokonyane got favours from the Bosasa special projects team set up to bribe and influence political leaders. Both got expensive security installations, plus Mokonyane had a birthday party sponsored and received lavish gifts of Christmas goodies for several years. She previously maintained that these were for the poor, although the handouts included boxes of premium brandy and expensive whisky.
Mantashe said he did not know his security installation had been paid for by Bosasa and assumed it was a gift from friends who clubbed together. Mantashe says that because he was the ANC’s secretary-general, he was being punished for doing his job. That job was to secure sponsorships for election centres at Bosasa.
But Zondo’s report has found that the round-tripping of cash from companies that won state tenders and then funded the ANC was intrinsically corrupt.
Both Mantashe and Mokonyane argued that such largesse was merely comradely support of democracy. These arguments will be tested in court, although the report makes a compelling argument for why this kind of funding falls within the definition of corruption in our law.
In the meantime, they should step aside, just as the party’s suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule was forced to do after losing a court application that argued that the step-aside rule was unconstitutional.
Whether these two will step aside is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Both are close allies of President Cyril Ramaphosa and he needs all the friends he can get in a hostile political year where different forces are lining up to toss him out at the party’s December conference. Mantashe has been a trusty chairperson fighting in the Ramaphosa corner. And Mokonyane switched support from former president Jacob Zuma to the new-ish order.
By not stepping aside and instead taking jabs at the State Capture Commission, senior leaders of the ANC risk making the Zondo report a dead fish even before the boat returns to shore.
There are two more parts of the report due at the end of March and end of April. DM