Gwede Mantashe Eskom

Minister Gwede Mantashe briefs media following State of the Nation Address Debate. Photo: GCIS

Not so fast: Mantashe disputes immediate reinstatement of VBS accused

The ANC’s National Chairperson says that the reinstatement will depend on engagements with Limpopo communities and the party’s provincial structures.

Gwede Mantashe Eskom

Minister Gwede Mantashe briefs media following State of the Nation Address Debate. Photo: GCIS

Two African National Congress (ANC) leaders in Limpopo who are alleged to have benefitted from the wanton corruption at VBS Mutual Bank will not be reinstated with immediate effect.

This, despite ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule recently announcing that Danny Msiza and Florence Radzilani — who had been suspended from duty by the party’s Integrity Commission in 2018 — would return to the fray following years of inactivity on the part of prosecutors. Magashule argued that while the Limpopo leaders had been mentioned in a damning report on the VBS saga, neither Msiza nor Radzilani had been found guilty by a court of law.

Magashule revealed the reinstatement during a media briefing concerning outcomes of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting. According to party insiders, the reinstatement of Msiza and Radzilani was a particularly contentious topic of debate among members of the NEC. It’s alleged that while President Cyril Ramaphosa opposed the reinstatement — citing the damage done to vulnerable residents of Limpopo as a result of VBS’ collapse — chairperson and premier, Stanley Mathabatha, was able to successfully sway the vote in favour of Msiza and Radzilani. Magashule said:

“It is now close to two years that these comrades stepped aside from positions as provincial deputy chair [Radzilani] and provincial treasurer [Msiza].

The NEC took a decision to reinstate these two comrades immediately.”

Magashule on VBS scandal: ‘Innocent until proven guilty’

The reinstatement was met with further disdain by opposition parties, corruption watchdogs and those adversely impacted by the destruction of VBS Mutual Bank. ANC Limpopo provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane issued a last-minute plea to the executive, noting that the reinstatement would send a poor message of unaccountability to Limpopo constituents.

Magashule defended the controversial decision, arguing that the ANC was bound by the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

According to an investigate report penned by Terry Motau and Werksmans Attorneys — at the behest of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) — Msiza was regarded as a ‘kingpin’ in a VBS-backed ‘commission’ scheme while Radzilani, who was only named in the report as the “mayor of Vhembe”, allegedly sunk municipal funds into VBS for personal returns.

A number of Limpopo municipalities were left severely distressed following the collapse of VBS, with the national administration forced to divert funds to offset dire financial losses.

Mantashe denies reinstatement of Msiza and Radzilani

While Magashule has attempted to downplay the heavy cloud of controversy which hangs over both Limpopo leaders, the ANC’s National Chairperson, Gwede Mantashe has disputed the Secretary General’s assertions of an immediate reinstatement. Speaking to political reporter Samkelo Maseko on Thursday, Mantashe denied that a final decision had been reached, explaining that Magashule’s announcement of an immediate reinstatement was a ‘personal view’ rather than official party policy.

This contradiction has added further fuel to the fire of factional infighting within the ruling party.

Mantashe added that the reinstatement of Msiza and Radzilani depended on engagements with Limpopo communities and other party structures in the province.

The political doubletalk follows high-profile arrests executed by the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), who have explained that investigations were still ongoing and that many others implicated in VBS corruption — including political leaders — would face the full might of the law.