Publication: Sunday Independent Issued: Date: 2007-12-02 Reporter: Jeremy Gordin Reporter: Christelle Terreblanche

Gloves Off as Prizefighters Put Their Seconds in the Ring



Sunday Independent



Reporter Jeremy Gordin, Christelle Terreblanche

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It's down to bare knuckles in the fight for the presidency of the ANC.

With a fortnight to go until the party's national conference in Polokwane, senior members from both the Mbeki and Zuma camps have entered the ring and the ANC's top brass are to hear claims of vote buying and other irregularities.

Mosiuoa Lekota, the ANC chairman, yesterday confirmed that the national executive committee would meet on Tuesday for a last-minute planning session and the ANC's electoral commission would release a collated leadership nominations list on Wednesday.

Zuma led overwhelmingly in provincial nominations tallied last weekend.

But the process is now mired in claims from all sides of vote buying, factional canvassing and even the last-minute creation of ghost branches.

Kgalema Motlanthe, the party's secretary general, warned that these disturbing claims would need to be investigated quickly and that the ANC ran the risk of becoming paralysed to fight elections in 2009.

But, in ANC tradition, and especially given the directive of the party executive that the run-up to the Polokwane conference should not be seen by the public to be nasty, the main contenders have stepped out of the ring and sent in their seconds to do the punching.

In President Thabo Mbeki's corner is Mosiuoa Lekota, the minister of defence, while Zweli Mkhize, the MEC for finance in KwaZulu-Natal and Zuma's friend and confidant, is there for the ANC deputy president.

Lekota - whom one of Zuma's aides described as having "an indecent obsession with Zuma" - was the first into the ring earlier this week when he accused Zuma of having asked to be fired from the cabinet in June 2005.

Zuma had therefore, said Lekota, behaved disingenuously by later claiming that there was a "conspiracy" against him. Zuma had also effectively lied, he claimed, about Mbeki and the party by saying there had been such a conspiracy.

Lekota claimed that Zuma had held shares in Nkobi Holdings, the company belonging to Schabir Shaik *1, the Durban businessman found guilty of corruption in June 2005. It was as a result of his relationship with Zuma that Mbeki fired Zuma.

Early yesterday morning, Zuma said from London *2 he was not going to comment on Lekota's "nonsense" until he returned in the next few days, but he said that Mkhize was handling the matter. Mkhize hit back yesterday in a 1 200-word written statement.

It was untrue, he wrote, that Zuma had requested to be relieved from his position as the country's deputy president, as alleged by Lekota.

"Both in private meetings of the leadership and in public address, the president indicated that he had taken the decision due to certain considerations associated with the judgment in the Schabir Shaik trial.

"It was not Zuma who went to the president to ask to be released; this was a matter of public record."

Mkhize also pointed out that it was untrue to say that Zuma had shares in any of Shaik's companies.

"Nor is it true," he wrote, "as the [Lekota newspaper] report seems to suggest, that Zuma could have pocketed money destined for the ANC behind the back of the ANC leadership.

"This is again a matter of public record, that the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal received donations from Shaik and signed for money received.

"The evidence in court [about Zuma, Shaik and money] referred to money recorded to have been received by Zuma as a private personal arrangement. To suggest otherwise would be defamatory," wrote Mkhize.

Regarding Lekota's claims that Zuma had fallaciously made claims that there was a conspiracy against him, Mkhize wrote: "The involvement of state intelligence agents in allegations of senior members of the ANC involved in plots against the state has been worrying. Zuma has been among those falsely implicated."

Mkhize said that Lekota had been cautioned at the last NEC meeting to desist from such public attacks on the ANC deputy president, yet he persisted.

With acknowledgements to Jeremy Gordin, Christelle Terreblanche and Sunday Independent.

*1       Zuma probably never directly and openly held shares in Nkobi Holdings.

But what is a court-proven fact is that about 3% to 5% of the shares of Nkobi were destined for him. However, the ANC decided not to accept the Malaysian bumiputerian model of indigenous economic empowerment causing this arrangement not to be formally implemented.

In all probability Zuma still collected his dues from Nkobi via a special purpose vehicle called Clanwest Investments (Pty) Ltd, a subsidiary company of Nkobi Holdings where Schabir Shaik is officially the main shareholder, but it is clear that about 40% of its shares are held on behalf of an occult shareholder.

All of this dovetails into the fact that Zuma was to receive R500 000 per year from Thomson-CSF until ADS started paying dividends (mainly fro its profits from the corvette combat suite contract. Zuma would have earned about this amount of money annually from his effective shareholding in ADS through Nkobi Holdings had he openly held these shares.

This scheme of arrangement also dovetails with the court-proven fact that another special purpose vehicle called Floryn Investments (Pty) Ltd, a subsidiary company of Nkobi Holdings where Schabir Shaik is also officially the main shareholder, holds about 40% of its shares on behalf of the ANC and through which Nkobi's dues to the ANC are channelled.