By PIET RAMPEDI AND MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA
A secret audio recording has exposed a well-orchestrated “plot” by senior ANC members to destroy newly formed political party, the African Transformation Movement (ATM), before the May 8 general elections.
The three-hour recordings, obtained by Sunday Independent this week, reveal how Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula – who was head of the ANC’s election campaign – allegedly organised money to pay ATM members who agreed to destabilise their party from within.
In the recordings, ATM activists could be heard discussing the meetings they held with Mbalula and the R40 000 payment each for infiltrating and sabotaging their party which was seen as a threat to the ANC. The recordings also show that ANC leaders covered ATM moles’ accommodation fees in various hotels.
The recordings suggest that the ANC paid for a bogus South African Council of Messianic Churches (SACMC) conference, held on April 16-17 in Cape Town, where a resolution was taken that ATM should be deregistered as a party and barred from contesting elections.
A public statement was later issued stating that the party would be disbanded and taken off the ballot paper, a move which created confusion among ATM members.
The statement said: “SACMC convened its national conference in Cape Town to deal with the fact that the religious body was fraudulently hijacked and named as ATM without mandate of the council.”
One ATM member who allegedly played along and pretended to be working with the ANC claims the governing party booked about 400 hotel rooms for the bogus SACMC delegates.
“There was money to be paid to people willing to destroy ATM and it was paid in cash, some of the people were paid R40 000 per person for their role in this plot,” he could be heard in the audio recording discussing the matter with another member.
During the discussion, the member could be heard even naming senior ANC leaders who were allegedly involved.
Asked for comment, Mbalula said the allegations were “hogwash that can’t be dignified with a comment”.
“There is no such, this is just hogwash. Where will the ANC get all the money to pay these people?” he asked.
Mbalula added that there was a person from the Western Cape who has been trying to “entrap me with all sorts of misdemeanours.”
The ATM was formed by a group of independent African churches last year. It is led by Vuyo Zungula and has former ANC member and government spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi as its policy head.
The recording emerged as ATM slapped the secretary-general of the SACMC, apostle Buyisile Ngqulwana, with a R22 million lawsuit for defamation.
Speaking to Sunday Independent on Friday, Zungula said the ATM was suing Ngqulwana because he created an impression the party was corrupt.
He said the perception “stigmatised” the ATM, assassinated the character of its leadership and cost it votes and money because some voters were no longer sure days before the polls whether the party was still contesting.
“To show that he was cunning, all this time he was making allegations that he is going to court.
“Then, at the eleventh hour, before the case was to be heard, he decided to withdraw the court case or court application, which clearly shows this has got nothing to do with legal objectives. It was politics, to stigmatise the party, to ensure the party is perceived to be corrupt. So, he must be accountable for all these actions,” said Zungula.
Zungula said Ngqulwana deliberately linked the ATM to former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, because of perceptions that the two were “corrupt characters” who were involved in state capture by the Gupta family.
He could not have linked us with anyone else because the intention was to destroy the organisation,” he added.
This came after Ngqulwana claimed in an affidavit last month that Zuma and Magashule were the brains behind the ATM. He also wrote to the Electoral Commission of South Africa requesting the ATM’s deregistration.
However, Ngqulwana later withdrew his affidavit in court just hours before the allegations could be tested. He also withdrew his affidavit shortly after the ANC resolved to launch an internal investigation against Magashule led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe.
Ngwulwana’s claims were further undermined when the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) released a statement last month distancing itself from his claims that it was among the churches that formed ATM.
“The Zion Christian Church and its spiritual leader, His Grace, the Right Reverend Dr BE Lekganyane, wish to distance themselves from unfounded, opportunistic and reckless claims that they are part of a group of church organisations or leaders who founded the African Transformation Movement (ATM),” said ZCC spokesperson Reverend Emmanuel Motolla.
Zungula claimed that Ngqulwana collaborated with President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe to destroy ATM.
He said all was well until April when Ngqulwana requested a meeting with Ramaphosa and Mantashe, followed by a press conference where he distanced himself from the ATM and claimed it was a Zuma and Magashule creation.
Ngqulwana did not respond to detailed questions sent to him on Friday for comment. He also failed to respond to repeated calls on Saturday.
Zizi Kodwa, the head of Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential office, refused to answer specific questions on allegations that Mbalula and other senior party leaders paid ATM members to help destroy their party from within.
Mantashe could not be reached for comment.