Covid-19 rips ANC apart
Factions clash over a proposal for Kgalema Motlanthe to probe graft allegations
Damaging claims of profiteering from Covid-19 contracts have split the ANC's top brass along pre-Nasrec factions, as leaders squabbled at the party's national executive committee (NEC) meeting this weekend over how to deal with corruption allegations levelled against its leaders.
The standoff in the NEC on Friday was sparked by President Cyril Ramaphosa's opening address, in which he is said to have warned the ANC executive that corruption has tarnished the party's brand.
At the centre of a heated debate was a proposal by Enoch Godongwana, head of the NEC subcommittee on economic transformation, for a committee led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, and including former president Thabo Mbeki, to investigate claims of corruption against party bigwigs.
The battle comes as more claims emerge of relatives and friends of ANC leaders benefiting from government contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) running into millions of rands.
Party activists went on social media on Friday to try to counter the wave of negative publicity engulfing the party, following revelations that more leaders' relatives have had a bite of the PPE pie.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule's eldest son Tshepiso's Motheko Projects received a contract for R2.29m and Tshepiso's brother Thato's Marvel Deeds scored R427,221 from the Free State treasury, according to the Daily Maverick.
Tuwo Rhodesia, a company owned by former minister Nomvula Mokonyane's daughter Katleho, was handed a R2.7m contract to supply soap to Gauteng's health department, the website reported.
Ramaphosa's son Andile is involved in a project to provide a safety feature for taxis to limit the spread of Covid-19, through his nonprofit company SDI Force.
Ramaphosa jnr partnered with FNB in the R6m project. No state funds are involved in the project.
A relative of deputy minister in the presidency and ANC NEC member Thembi Siweya scored more than R800,000 worth of contracts to supply PPE.
Siweya's cousin, Hlulani Siweya, was awarded contracts by the Limpopo health department to deliver face shields and heavy-duty surgical gloves through her company, Rebantle Trading & Projects.
Siweya becomes the second high-ranking official in the presidency to be mentioned in the PPE procurement scandal.
Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko had to temporarily step aside from her position after it emerged that her husband was awarded a contract worth R124m by the Gauteng health department to supply PPE.
Magashule came under fire in the NEC meeting for comments he made in an interview with 24-hour news network Newzroom Afrika last month.
The pro-Ramaphosa group is said to have pushed for him to be taken to task for telling the station he would not resign over corruption allegations levelled against him.
An insider said former ANC North West provincial secretary Dakota Legoete came to Magashule's defence.
"Dakota gave clarity. At the time [of the interview] there was a story of asbestos [reports of R200m being squandered on a count of houses with asbestos roofs]. The SG said he would not resign if he's charged because he knows some of these things are concocted somewhere.
"That was the point because we have turned the ANC into Animal Farm. Others must go to jail and others we are dilly-dallying when we have to deal with their cases," said the insider.
A leader who attended the meeting said: "I think they sat somewhere and plotted. They wanted to raise these matters either to suspend him or to make him panic. The SG is the custodian of disciplinary processes of the ANC. It is the SG alone who can bring charges. He has not done that. But because of these new scandals . I think they are intimidating him. So that he must not even start [laying charges]."
Contacted for comment, Legoete referred the Sunday Times to party spokesperson Pule Mabe.
The Sunday Times understands that Godongwana's proposal for a special committee to be formed was shot down by the Magashule faction, which argued that Motlanthe was not a neutral party in ANC battles because his wife has business links to leaders in the Ramaphosa faction.
"These comrades have leadership fatigue. Kgalema has served, he's on retirement. To bring him through another special committee... it is a dereliction of duty because he was not elected with us in Nasrec," said the insider.
But a leader aligned with the Ramaphosa faction said the Motlanthe committee proposal was rejected only by those who "want to keep the status quo".
The three-day meeting, which started on Friday, ends today.
The pro-Magashule group is said to have argued that if the party wants to deal with corruption it must also investigate the funding of internal elections, including the CR17 fund for Ramaphosa's bid for the ANC presidency at Nasrec in 2017, and probe leaders with close ties to the president.
"There is also this discussion around the fact that there needs to be consistency and that is also a big fight. We must go back and look at who paid for whose conference or campaign," said an NEC member.
Meanwhile, Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba told the Sunday Times there were no irregularities in the awarding of R850,000 worth of contracts to Rebantle Trading & Projects.
Ramathuba dismissed claims by sources in her department that she and the deputy minister are friends.
She said pictures circulating of the two of them together do not prove any friendship as they were taken at official functions and at a funeral.
Thembi Siweya denied playing any role in the tender.
Limpopo health department spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said: "MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba would like to put it categorically clear that she is not a friend to deputy minister Thembi Siweya."
According to the department, Hlulani Siweya's company was awarded a contract to deliver 16,450 face shields at R35 each, amounting to R576, 000. She could, however, confirm delivering only a third of this.
She insisted that this is the only business she has with the Limpopo government regarding PPE.
The department, however, said she also was paid R270,000 for the supply of 10,000 heavy-duty gloves.
The department insisted there was nothing untoward about Hlulani doing business with the province since her cousin, the deputy minister, does not work for the department.
Furthermore, the department said, Hlulani had quoted less than the rates stipulated by the National Treasury for emergency PPE procurement.
The department said the Treasury rate for face shields was set at R108 but Hlulani quoted R35, and the rate for heavy-duty gloves was R35 and she quoted R27.
Thembi cut her political teeth in Limpopo before her rise to national politics when she was appointed deputy minister last year.
The head of the health department in Limpopo, Thokozani Mhlongo, said the department had followed all relevant legislative prescripts in the appointment of Rebantle Trading and other companies.
So far, the department has spent R420m on PPE, with 230 companies involved.
Mhlongo added that Hlulani's company had been doing business with the Limpopo government before the appointment of Ramathuba as health MEC, which "dispels the notion and the inference that Rebantle got the tender to supply PPE because of the perceived proximity to either the deputy minister or the MEC for health".
In fact, said Mhlongo, Hlulani's quotation had saved money for the department as it was used as a benchmark for all other companies.
Hlulani said she only received a purchase order for face shields after responding to four requests for quotations.
"I registered in the database of PPE with the provincial department of health and then I received four requests for quotes and I responded to all of them," she said.
"I then got a purchase order for face shields meant for schoolkids and I delivered in the store of the department of education.
"Remember, Rhulani [Thembi] is my cousin, but I have been in this tendering business for more than seven years and Rhulani has never helped me with anything, but this now is ruining my reputation and messing with my company and I do not want that."
Thembi said she was in the dark about her cousin doing business with the Limpopo government.
Her spokesperson, Lawrence Ngoveni, said: "Hlulani is indeed the deputy minister's cousin.
"The deputy minister is not aware that Hlulani was appointed to supply PPE. All supply chain management process in government should be administered in terms of the applicable legislation, policies and regulations."