Calls grow in ANC for Ramaphosa to axe Mahlobo, Cwele over state capture role

There is growing discord in the ANC’s peace and stability committee having water and sanitation deputy minister David Mahlobo as its chairperson
following the damning findings of the Zondo commission on his role in the looting of State Security funds.

Mahlobo served as Minister of State Security from 26 May 2014 to 16 October 2017. It is during this time that chief justice Raymond Zondo found that Mahlobo involved himself and directed operations of the State Security Agency (SSA) in contravention of the law.

“The commission finds, therefore, that Mr Mahlobo did indeed involve himself in operational matters at the SSA, and further those large amounts of cash were delivered to him on several occasions,” Zondo said.

It is this finding, one member of the peace and stability committee of the governing party said, that makes Mahlobo’s position both in the committee and government untenable. The powerful subcommittee on peace and stability holds the country’s security apparatus to account on behalf of the ANC.

The senior leader, who is also a member of the party’s NEC, said Mahlobo must either present himself before the party’s integrity commission or be hauled before the party’s veterans.

“There are processes in the party and in the state. We expect him (Mahlobo), as the president (Ramaphosa) did with Phala Phala, to present himself before the integrity commission,” the member said.

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe said it was early for the heads of those implicated in the Zondo report to roll, adding that the party’s internal processes must be given a chance to deliberate the matter.

“The final report is less than a week old and it would be premature to say what should happen about those implicated in the report. The ANC has set up a team, which will deal specifically with what emanates from the report and the complications of the findings. The committee will give advice on what decision the party should take,” he said.

Zondo labelled President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to appoint Mahlobo as a deputy minister in 2019 as concerning as the appointment followed damning findings by the high-level panel report against him.

Zondo placed the blame for state capture on SSA and former president Jacob Zuma.

“The evidence suggests that this commission may not, in fact, have been necessary if the SSA detected, fully investigated and countered state capture as a threat to our constitutional order when the symptoms first appeared,” said Zondo.

In 2011, Zuma and then state security minister Siyabonga Cwele allegedly forced heads of the domestic and foreign services Gibson Njenje and Mo Shaik respectively, and then SSA director-general Jeff Maqethuka to drop an investigation into the Guptas, Zuma’s friends.

The trio had already established that the Guptas posed a security threat in their meddling in state affairs.

The SSA did not only fail to stop state capture, it also served as a gravy train.

The commission found “gross non-compliance with operational and financial directives, especially in the establishment of covert projects and the creation of special-purpose vehicles to siphon funds”.

The malfeasance cost the state about R1.5-billion between 2012 and 2018.

Zondo concluded that Cwele, Mahlobo, former SSA director-general Arthur Fraser and Thulani Dlomo, the former head of the Chief Directorate of Special Operations, were behind the hollowing of the intelligence agency.

Zondo also questioned why the president deemed it fit to move Fraser from SSA to become national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services in 2018 despite a damning report by a panel headed by former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi.

A key finding of the panel is that there was political repurposing and factionalisation of the intelligence community over the past decade or more that resulted in an almost complete disregard for the constitution, policy, legislation and other prescripts.

One of the main recommendations was that Ramaphosa “instruct the appropriate law enforcement bodies, oversight institutions and internal disciplinary bodies to investigate all manifest breaches of the law, regulations and other prescripts in the SSA as highlighted by the report of the panel, with a view to instituting, where appropriate, criminal prosecution and/or disciplinary proceedings”.

Mahlobo and Fraser were at the SSA at the time of the probe by the panel.

In recent weeks, Fraser laid a criminal complaint in which he claims Ramaphosa concealed the theft of millions of US dollars at his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo, a saga that has enveloped the president in scandal.

For his part, Cwele has been rewarded with a posting as an ambassador of South Africa to China, the country’s largest trading partner.

Prof Nirmala Gopal, University of KwaZulu-Natal-based criminologist and forensics expert, said Ramaphosa, as the head of the party, must make good on his promise that the ANC was cleansing itself.

“The findings are damning, and they warrant that David Mahlobo steps aside from any public duty until he is cleared. The country’s safety and security is at stake, and if the Zondo report is anything to go by, he has shown that he (Mahlobo) lacks
integrity and ethics and cannot be trusted,” said Gopal.

Mahlobo did not respond to written questions.

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