OPINION | Stepping aside will make you return morally and politically stronger: A personal experience
On the eve of the deadline set by the national executive committee (NEC) to all ANC members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes to step aside within 30 days, I feel morally and politically obliged to share my personal experiences with a view of persuading such members to comply with a resolution of the highest decision-making body in between the national conferences.
In 2013, when I was ANC provincial deputy chairperson and MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) in North West, I was arbitrarily removed from all the positions I held, and my ANC membership was summarily suspended.
The reason for such arbitrary, cruel and drastic action against me was because I was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder and the murder of comrade Obuti Chika, the late regional secretary of the ANC in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district.
From the word go, it was clear to me and many other people across the broader spectrum that the charges preferred against me were spurious, trumped-up and part of a political scheme hatched to besmirch my reputation and stop me from elevation to any position of significance.
On the day I was arrested, I pointed out that the arrest was politically motivated and concocted to deal with me for the political views I held in North West and towards the 2012 Mangaung national conference. It was clear some North West ANC leaders were using the state machinery and all its law enforcement apparatuses to persecute and prosecute me.
From the beginning, it was clear the state’s case was very weak. It pointed to an unholy alliance between some ANC politicians, the police and the prosecution, vindicating my conviction about an orchestrated dirty tricks campaign unleashed against “opponents”.
The most painful part of that episode was when my daughter Duduzile was mocked and ridiculed by her classmates and peers at school, who said I was a murderer who would rot in jail and she would never see me again. She cried bitterly. I was deeply touched and cried too.
During the court proceedings, I discredited the lies which were hurled against me, revealed with irrefutable evidence the agenda the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) perpetuated and showed the court the misfortunes I suffered during my ordeal.
When the judge discharged me in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedures Act — at the end of the state’s case, the court is of the view there is no evidence the accused committed the offence referred to on the charge sheet — he without hesitation stated the police were hunting me and were using all the resources in their arsenal to try to maliciously secure my conviction.
The judge further stated the police were tailoring evidence and interfering with the statements of witnesses to deal with me and get me convicted. The judgment itself was a serious indictment against the police and the prosecution as their nefarious, evil and nocturnal agenda was openly exposed. The police misdemeanours set a dangerous precedence for the justice system in our country.
It is a hypocrisy of the highest order, especially from comrade Supra, to question the authority and decision of the NEC on the step-aside rule.
As a result of the malicious prosecution, which included unlawful arrest and detention, loss of income for five years and the demeaning of my social standing in society (reputation), I had to spend millions for legal and other related costs to clear my name.
I was left distraught, lost self-confidence and self-esteem. At the end of the excruciating trial, I was penniless and unemployed with huge debts while my properties were repossessed by the banks. I was left with nothing except my name, which I built over the years through painful and relentless struggles and personal sacrifices.
To add insult to injury, while it took the provincial executive committee (PEC) led by comrade Supra Mahumapelo only three days to suspend me after my arrest, after my acquittal it took the same PEC more than two months (67 days to be exact) to reinstate my ANC membership and position as deputy chairperson but not as MEC.
The reinstatements happened two weeks before the 2015 provincial conference which elected the PEC “unopposed”. The reinstatements were done after I had launched protests and had written letters to the NEC officials (top six) and the NEC deployees for their intervention.
To say I was extremely upset is to tell the truth. When I was set aside (suspended), I neither appealed nor defied my leadership, let alone took my organisation to court. When I was suspended and removed, there were no disciplinary hearings and I was not given a fair opportunity to make representations. The principles of natural justice and audi alteram partem rule were not followed and observed.
While I was convinced my organisation had acted wrongly and unlawfully, I didn’t resort to the courts to resolve my grievances and to adjudicate my disputes with the organisation. I remained disciplined to the end and instead fought my battles internally.
Therefore, it is a hypocrisy of the highest order, especially from comrade Supra, to question the authority and decision of the NEC on the step-aside rule. Under the watch of comrade Supra, I saw real cadres of the ANC dealt with daily and removed from their positions in the ANC and in government. I saw people told they would go to the streets when they raised genuine issues inside the ANC, reminded that it was cold outside and they would walk without their shoes.
We must not be vindictive or vengeful. I call for sanity to prevail. I urge all those who are charged with corruption or serious crimes not to undermine and disrespect the authority of the leadership, but to step aside. In my view, failure to abide by the resolution of the NEC will have serious consequences too ghastly to contemplate, including the risks of suspension and therefore destroying one’s political future.
It will be ill discipline of the worst degree to mobilise and galvanise cadres of the ANC across the country against the step-aside resolution. The worst will be to take the ANC to court without exhausting the internal remedies. This repugnant and reprehensible attitude towards the ANC leadership and its resolutions is unwarranted and unacceptable.
Take it from me. Lo and behold, since my reinstatement a few years ago, I feel I have matured and grown stronger politically and morally. During my suspension I had ample time for personal reflections, read more political literature, pursue my academic studies and spent more time with my family, especially my children, who enjoyed my companionship.
I have also come to realise patience pays. As the ANC has no dustbin in which to throw its cadres, I was appointed into the interim provincial committee (IPC) and deployed as a member of parliament in the National Council of Provinces. The ANC has deployed me in very crucial positions, including as chairperson of the select committee on Cogta and as a member of the Judicial Service Commission. All I appreciate.
Morally, I speak with authority and absolute confidence on contentious issues facing our country, such as corruption. I have learnt my lessons and understand my organisation, the ANC, better. I am ready for bigger assignments and ready to face all the battles ahead.
The benefits of respecting and complying with the organisational resolutions are great. They enhance both the prestige and standing of the ANC as an undisputed indomitable leader of the society but also help our political growth and maturity.
I hope my personal experience will persuade all those who are charged to respect the decisions of the NEC and therefore step aside.
- China Dodovu is chairperson of the National Council of Provinces' ad hoc committee on the section 100 Intervention in North West. This is written in his personal capacity and was first posted on his Facebook page on Thursday.