While President Cyril Ramaphosa’s explanation that his deputy David Mabuza’s decision to delay his swearing-in as member of parliament until he presents himself before the ANC’s integrity committee may sound plausible, this may be a ploy by Mabuza to politically reposition himself within the governing party, an expert has warned.
In an unprecedented move in post-democratic South African politics, Mabuza, who is Ramaphosa’s second-in-command in the party and in government, opted to delay being sworn in as an MP until he answered to charges of having brought the party into disrepute.
The committee deals with the values and ethics of ANC members. News of the former premier of Mpumalanga’s delayed swearing-in yesterday coincided with a move by senior ANC members Nomvula Mokonyane, Baleka Mbete and Malusi Gigaba, who all opted not to go to parliament despite being on the list of nominated MP candidates.
Mokonyane, who was earmarked by the ANC as the National Assembly’s chair of chairs and Gigaba, a former finance, home affairs and public enterprises minister, have featured prominently in the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. The two have been implicated by witnesses in malfeasance and corruption during their tenure in the public office.
Richard Calland, associate professor of public law at the University of Cape Town (UCT), has expressed concern about Mabuza’s previous involvement in the so-called “premier league” – a group of premiers that sought to influence key appointments in the ANC and government during president Jacob Zuma’s leadership.
Professor Calland said he viewed Mabuza’s delayed swearing-in “with scepticism”.
“The public should be careful not to lump all these ANC leaders who have refused to go to parliament into one category.
“Some may not want to return to parliament as backbenchers while others may not want to become MPs out of concern for the financial impact this may have on their pensions.
“But the case of deputy president Mabuza, who is delaying being sworn in as an MP and thereafter being appointed by President Ramaphosa, is something I find quite intriguing. Him removing himself from being appointed may be a ploy to strengthen his position within the ANC – a sign of the rebuilding of the ‘premier league’.”
On charges of corruption, state capture and malfeasance levelled against senior ANC leaders, Calland expressed confidence that the integrity committee was “starting to swing into action”.
“Although I am not clear what the integrity committee has or has not done, it has made its voice heard to the likes of Mabuza to first subject themselves before the body and put their side of the story,” he said.
“Now that looks like an impact that the committee is starting to make.”
Public criticism of the ANC’s candidates list that included individuals implicated in state capture has been a bone of contention within the party – a matter that has led to the ANC voter support numbers decreasing at the May 8 elections. Calland said the state capture commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, was “a game-changer”.
“The commission is delivering a huge amount of evidence on corruption networks – powerful testimonies, becoming difficult to ignore. Regardless of the remedial action, the commission of inquiry should be taken on its word, which carries a lot of weight.”