When Gauteng’s MEC for safety and security, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, stood up and nominated an alleged murderer and alleged election cheat as a ward councillor, it created a stir.
The ANC’s Solomon Mahlangu branch members, gathered at a school in Alexandra, were not universally convinced that Chris Mabunda was the ideal candidate to represent them. Their few objections made no difference and Mabunda’s name was put forward, first by the branch, then by the ANC’s Johannesburg region, and finally by the Gauteng provincial executive committee.
He is not alone – ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe this week confirmed that there are 28 ANC candidates on the party’s lists for the local government elections in August who either have criminal records or are facing serious charges.
Their names were submitted despite ANC guidelines to the contrary and the likelihood that they will not be eligible for election.
Mantashe said the party would wait for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to complete its screening of submitted candidates before it made a decision. “We will not be shocked by anything that comes from the IEC,” said Mantashe.
It was clear this week that at least one of those names appeared on the list thanks to a high-ranking ANC member who knew the implications.
“At the meeting, comrade Sizakele stood up and nominated Chris [Mabunda],” said a branch leader who attended the meeting and who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity. “The other comrades didn’t clap hands. They know the story about the murder [that Mabunda is accused of].”
Nkosi-Malobane’s nomination of Mabunda was confirmed by two other ANC branch members who attended the meeting. She did not respond to repeated attempts to contact her, nor did she respond to written questions sent to her on Wednesday.
Mantashe said the ANC would rely on the IEC to determine which of its candidates had criminal records. “They will come back to us to say X number of candidates on your list are convicted,” he said.
He could not name them but said the convictions ranged from assault to traffic fines.
Mabunda is scheduled to appear in the Alexandra magistrate’s court on Tuesday on a charge of murder. It relates to the brutal assault and killing of two Alexandra residents who were accused of stealing R150 000 from a local businessperson. Mabunda worked as a security guard at the time of the murder.
He is also due to appear in a separate matter. He was allegedly caught with a box full of original ballot papers during the 2014 elections.
The ANC’s Johannesburg regional spokesperson, Jolidee Matongo, confirmed Mabunda’s nomination and insisted the party’s election guidelines would not be circumvented. “We are aware of the matter. The guidelines of the ANC are very clear on what should happen if someone faces criminal charges. The ANC will act in accordance,” said Matongo.
But it appears that Mabunda enjoys widespread support from the top brass in the Gauteng ANC – besides that of Nkosi-Malobane – because he is considered vital in what promises to be a tough contest in Johannesburg.
An ANC provincial executive committee member, who asked not to be named, defended the province’s decision to support Mabunda, despite his pending criminal case.
“Chris has won the ward, which includes IFP [Inkatha Freedom Party] dominated hostels. So you cannot punish the person who is a hard community worker. That would be unfair. Chris is a tough guy. In fact, he is an ANC marshal and kind of guy that is not a pushover. He is one of the few who can go and campaign on the other side of the divide and be listened to,” the PEC member said.
He also raised the question why Mabunda’s eligibility was not challenged by the ANC’s internal integrity committee before the nomination.
“It is the integrity committee which must evaluate whether the case against him has damaged the image of the ANC. If it goes to court and Chris is not found guilty, what happens? The question is, for me, has the integrity committee done anything about it?”
Mabunda would not comment on his nomination or the charges against him. He did not respond to subsequent messages.
The ANC in Gauteng said it would not comment on the matter until the IEC completes it screening process. “This should confirm with certainly who is in the running as a candidate for the 2016 Local Government Elections. Until then we prefer not to engage in speculation,” said ANC spokesperson Motalatale Modiba.
Five years on and still the killings continue
Politically motivated murders are increasing, with more than five people having been assassinated in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga in the past two weeks.
The Human Rights Commission is concerned that the killings are occurring regularly, yet very few arrests have been made.
“The right to life should be sacrosanct in our society and particularly when it relates to fundamental freedoms of political activity, the right to vote, freedom of expression and beliefs. No one has the right to take a life, for any reason, least of all for political gain.”
The most recent shooting, which took place in the Moses Mabhida region in KwaZulu-Natal, left one ANC leader dead and another recovering in hospital.
Two weeks ago the Mail & Guardian reported that more than 50 people had been killed in the past five years – that number has now risen to more than 60 reported murders.
A week after the report Police Minister Nathi Nhleko announced that a special task team had been established to investigate political killings.
He said he was “seriously concerned” about the killings, especially “where political figures are victims or where the killings are being linked to the upcoming local government [elections]”.
Former national police commissioner Bheki Cele made the same announcement in 2011, but there appears to be no official report to date.