On Monday evening, Cyril Ramaphosa announced the first cabinet reshuffle of his tenure as president of South Africa. While there were many surprises and also some non-surprises, one of the most significant announcements made was that the former Mpumalanga premier and deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC), David “DD” Mabuza would be sworn in as the new deputy president of the country. The Daily Vox team takes a further look at the man behind the stories.
Mabuza’s political career has long been at the centre of many scandals and controversies. He has been accused of being a part of tender corruption relating to Mbombela stadium for the 2010 World Cup, political assassinations as well as criminal activities in neighbouring Mozambique. Yet, that very same man now takes up a place next to Cyril Ramaphosa as the second most powerful man (politically at least) in South Africa.
Just days before he was announced as the deputy president, News24 reported that a senior party member had told them that Mabuza did not want the deputy president position, yet the ANC in Mpumalanga were pushing for him to take the position. Mabuza had been the premier of Mpumalanga since 2008 where his many scandals have enveloped the province. It was likely the party in the province were keen to get rid of him.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mabuza along with the other new ministers were sworn into their new positions. After his swearing in, Mabuza addressed media denying all the accusations.
“Since 2009, and now is 2018, nine years later, they are still talking about this thing and now I am deputy president. And they will probably talk about these things until I die,” he said.
Mabuza has called on the media to avoid spreading rumours about his misdeeds.
“I want to help our media, it is always important to write about something that has got a base. Don’t write about something that is baseless… you can’t write about rumours.”
He has also called on the public to come forward if they have any evidence regarding the accusations. “No one wants to step forward and say: ‘I’ve seen DD Mabuza commit this and this and this. I am prepared to go and testify in court’,” he said.
One of the people who ran for ANC president back in December, Mathews Phosa, was once Mabuza’s close ally but now fierce political rival. Phosa has also been a harsh critic of Mabuza.
Phosa was the person responsible for bringing Mabuza into the ANC. He recruited Mabuza into the party while he was a student. Phosa and Mabuza were in the same underground cell together and it was Phosa who later appointed Mabuza as a MEC while he was the premier of Mpumalanga.
It was while he was the MEC for education that there was a scandal in the 90s surrounding the provincial department. It emerged that the matric results had been inflated in the province. Mabuza was fired by Phosa over that scandal which saw the 1998 Mpumalanga’s pass rate increase from 51% to 71%.
It was during apartheid that Mabuza was accused by other comrades of being an apartheid spy. There were accusations that he has been involved in the killings of comrades along with Eugene De Kock, an apartheid police colonel and assassin. However, this along with many of the other allegations have never been proven. Mabuza even took Phosa to court over defamation charges with the claim that Phosa has falsely spread around an intelligence report with those allegations.
Speaking to journalist Mandy Wiener during the ANC’s 54th national conference last year, Phosa said the main problem Mabuza has is that there are too many scandals surrounding him from his time serving in the government of Mpumalanga from tender scandals, to the political killings.
“I think we expect him to drive good governance, respect the constitution, respect the rule of law, I think there’s an issue of credibility with him. The people don’t trust DD because of all these gossips about corruption. He’s going to have to establish credibility as a human being. I don’t know how he’s going to turn around things and make people trust him tomorrow,” Phosa said.
Phosa also said that Mabuza was controlling the police in Mpumalanga. Last year, he revealed exclusively to eNCA a video showing a group of men shooting guns into the air in a crowded area. Phosa said those men were the private army of Mabuza sent to disrupt ANC branch meetings which were not in Mabuza’s favour.
Phosa declined to be interviewed by The Daily Vox for this article.
Mabuza mysteriously fell ill late in 2015, but when he recovered he renamed himself “The Cat” to imply that just like a cat he had nine lives. He claimed at the time that he has been poisoned in a political plot.
As for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, not only was Mabuza accused of corruption during the tournament, but he was later accused of being involved in the killing of the whistleblower who revealed the corruption surrounding a stadium tender. Jimmy Mohlala, the speaker of the Mbombela municipality was killed after he revealed the tender corruption that had taken place. Those accusations Mabuza has denied as well.
There have been about 17 political assassinations in the province while Mabuza has been in charge. However, while many of the killings have been linked to the deputy president, he has never been incriminated. This is because of his control over the Mpumalanga police, his critics say.
“Ignore me at your own peril” Those were the words of #DDMabuza when interviewed by #sabcnews last year. I was asking him why he wasn’t attending events addressed by Ramaphosa prior the ANC 54th conference. Well, he is now deputy president of the country. pic.twitter.com/u0epHehG7l
— Mweli Masilela (@mwelimasilela) February 27, 2018
Professor Susan Booysen from the Wits School of Governance spoke to The Daily Vox about Mabuza’s accession to the deputy presidency. She said he cannot rule like he did in Mpumalanga and survive because that type of protectionist environment is not available politically.
“He would have to define another game for himself but he remains what many people call a sly fox who really knows about organisation and how to make things turn his way,” Booysen said.
She said those are skills that can never be taken away from him, but the context in which he will operate will be entirely different.
She also noted that the role of the deputy president is very constrained. “The deputy president serves the agenda of the president. Cyril Ramaphosa will have huge scope to define what David Mabuza will be upto and how he will be doing his task. He will not have huge leeway to define his own future.”
Booysen mentioned there is no mistake in the appointment of Mabuza but rather
with regards to the internal processes and expectations from within the ANC, where the deputy president of the party is automatically expected to be the deputy president of the country.
For Mabuza’s political game to end, Booysen said only the courts can stop him. “The accusations and the scandals, if there are legal processes forthcoming, then they need to start taking shape because it is only legal processes and judgements that will stop that. Without those kind of rulings, he will not be stopped and will not be affected.”
Booysen said while these perceptions have not affected the voting constituency in Mpumalanga, it could play out differently nationally. “Ramaphosa’s ANC is pitched around this idea of clean government and doing things better than the Zuma [administration] going forward. It is a contradiction that they will have to address. And the only definitive way to address those allegations either gets investigated and refuted or that they get taken to court and those processes unfold.”