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Mabuza votes in Mpumalanga ward for ANC candidate on two murder charges

Mabuza on Monday voted for an ANC councillor candidate who is out on bail and facing murder charges.

01 November 2021 - 22:44
Deputy President David Mabuza casts his vote at the Ajuri Farm in Barberton, Mpumalanga.
Deputy President David Mabuza casts his vote at the Ajuri Farm in Barberton, Mpumalanga.
Image: Alaister Russell

It was fairly quiet at Ajuri Farm when deputy president David Mabuza’s motorcade descended upon the voting station in his hometown of Barberton in Mpumalanga.

It was just before midday and the station in Ward 45 had served only a few people — the presiding officer said they were expecting around 100 people by the end of the day.

Mabuza was in and out within a few minutes, and was all smiles when he declared his undying love for the ANC when asked which party he voted for.

He is, however, voting for an ANC councillor candidate who is out on bail and facing double murder charges.

Njabulo Mkhonto stands to be a councillor in Mabuza’s ward should the ANC win, even though he and the ANC provincial executive committee member and former campaign manager Mandla Msibi stand accused of shooting dead two people in August in what is believed to be a dispute around candidate lists.

When queried about the effect of this incident on the elections, Mabuza did not want to go into detail but simply said there were step-aside guidelines that must be followed.

“Issues of step-aside, I think we have discussed those and we’re not going to repeat ourselves. We said anyone who have been charged should step aside and we are not pre-empting the case, we are not saying he or she is guilty, but for the sake of the organisation you need to step aside so that you spend time and focus on your case. We don’t cloud the movement. That is a decision that we have taken, we went through a difficult time trying to implement that decision, and finally members of the ANC have understood, so we’re fine,” Mabuza explained.

According to insiders, Msibi and Mkhonto are close allies of Mabuza in the highly divided Mpumalanga.

The ANC in the province is said to be split into three groups: “RMT” led by premier Refiloe Mtsweni-Tsipane, “Focus” led by Mabuza’s allies, and Ngci (which translates to “full stop” — though the correct Zulu spelling is Ngqi).

Msibi and Mkhonto are said to be commanding insurmountable power in the province with the latter being very popular in the Barberton area where Mabuza lives.

Had the ANC removed Mkhonto as a councillor candidate ahead of the elections, the party was likely going to lose the ward.

“He’s a powerful figure within the ward and the issue is that by removing him the ANC could lose the ward. The sole reason he’s not removed is because of that,” said an insider with intimate knowledge of politics in Mpumalanga.

The insider said Ward 45 — which Mkhonto is contesting — was “very crucial” for the ANC not only because the deputy president lives there.

“There’s about 180 members of the ANC. So it’s a very important ward because it brings a lot of numbers,” he said.

People in Mpumalanga generally like and feel safe around Mabuza and his allies, including those from opposition parties, the insider said.

This, he said, explained why the ANC always gets overwhelming numbers during elections.

In the 2019 national and provincial elections, the ANC in Mpumalanga was dominant, winning more than 70% of the vote. Though this was almost an 8% decline compared with the 2014 elections, it still maintained a strong footing.

This was the same trend in the 2016 local government elections where the party won more than 70% of the votes.

But internal divisions and infighting over positions are likely to result in a significant drop in support in these elections unless opposition parties fail to up their game.

Mabuza told journalists that factionalism had no place in an ANC that he wants. He said that factionalism risked killing the ANC.

“So I’m confident that we managed to put across our very strong message [during the election campaign], yes we are going to deal with these factional battles within the ANC because if we fail we risk losing this movement. This time around we are going to deal with that, rest assured we are not going to fail our people,” he said.​

TimesLIVE visited several voting stations around the Barberton area where voter turnout was generally low.

The voting at the stations went smoothly except for one isolated incident at Emjindini Secondary School where ANC and EFF members clashed, almost coming to blows allegedly after ANC members intimidated people who were coming to vote for the EFF.


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