TSHWARELO HUNTER MOGAKANE
FORMER President Thabo Mbeki’s foundation has refused to comment on claims that his leaked letter to ANC Deputy President Paul Mashatile has raised “good points” at the “wrong time” for all the “wrong reasons.”
The criticism came at the height of Mbeki’s name having once again taken centre stage on matters concerning incumbent ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa.
This time the former statesman has received praise for the leaked letter that he addressed to Mashatile and copied the rest of the party’s Top 7 officials.
The letter, which was widely shared on social media, sparked a response from ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula during an impromptu midday press briefing aimed at quelling the noise.
Mbalula also followed up with an internal ANC letter instructing branches and members of the party not to discuss it in public until the Top 7 has met with Mbeki.
In the 17-page political “epistle to the broader church,” Mbeki cautioned that the current leadership of his party was creating a huge gap between itself and the voters.
He warned that the gap would come back to swallow the ANC during the 2024 general elections, which are exactly 12 months away – if voting tradition is anything to go by.
Mbeki’s points of contention included the fact that the ANC majority in parliament voted against holding Ramaphosa accountable for the Phala Phala saga.
During the parliamentary debate last December, ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe went as far as threatening disciplinary action against any members who would openly vote for an impeachment inquiry into Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala scandal to be adopted.
A handful of senior ANC members, including Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma voted in favour of the inquiry, but the majority followed the party line.
This led to the ATM’s lawyers challenging National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s decision to refuse a secret ballot during the debate.
ATM leader Vuyo Zungula wanted the Western Cape High Court to review the Speaker’s decision, set it aside, and declare it unconstitutional and invalid.
This would allow the Phala Phala matter to be brought back to a fresh debate and a secret ballot.
However, the panel of judges, including Judge Ashley Binns-Ward, Judge Daniel
Thulare and Judge Andre Le Grange demanded to know what was wrong with the Speaker’s decision to exercise an open democratic process.
The prospects of the ATM winning the case have grown slim, forcing Mbeki to reprimand his comrades for what they did.
Mbeki outlined the genesis of the scandal, citing June 2022 when former spy boss Arthur Fraser reported the “covered-up” burglary that took place at Phala Phala in Waterberg, Limpopo.
“The recent report by SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter that no record of the declaration to Customs has been found of the $580 000 Comrade President Ramaphosa says was stolen deepens the puzzle about what exactly happened at Phala Phala farm.
“We must be honest with ourselves and understand that many among the masses of our people will entertain the suspicion that the Phala Phala matter includes corruption,” said Mbeki.
Mbeki further likened the Phala Phala matter to former President Jacob Zuma’s infamous Nkandla case.
“In that sense, this is no different from the ‘Nkandla matter,’ which once again, many among our people suspected involved corrupt practice.
“History had made the firm and an unequivocal statement that we never have acted as we did for a long time to support Comrade Zuma from doing what he ultimately agreed was the right thing to do to honour the remedial action decided by the Public Protector,” Mbeki wrote.
Mbeki also questioned the ANC’s decision to refuse an inquiry into former Eskom Chief Executive Officer, Andre De Ruyter’s allegations that ANC ministers had interfered with procurement processes.
Independent political analyst Gakwi Mashego has criticised Mbeki’s timing in all this.
“Former President Thabo Mbeki’s letter to the broader church of the ANC is a testament to hypocrisy. We are headed for a national election next year and here is former President Mbeki concerned about the votes, but can we say he is concerned about the voters?
“He is acting as if ANC members of parliament under him were acting differently from how they are acting now. During his term as president, he individually came up with the theory that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.
“When he said that, every ANC member in parliament started singing to that chorus. They were protecting him and not disowning what he was saying. ANC members of parliament not disowning their president is nothing new. They have been doing it ever since,” Mashego said.
Mashego said it eventually took a court order to force the Mbeki administration to provide free antiretrovirals to HIV patients.
“No ANC MPs were coming out to rock the boat. Thabo Mbeki as president of the country signed off on the arms deal for weapons that were not needed by South Africa. The South African Defence Force did not need them because the army was inherited from a heavily armed regime.
“When this happened, members of ANC in parliament never came out to criticise him except for Andrew Feinstein, who explained that the money that funded the 2004 ANC elections came from the arms deal,” said Mashego.
Thabo Mbeki Foundation’s Siyabulela Gebe said they would not comment on anything related to the matter.