Integrity Commission summons to Ace Magashule sets stage for fiery anti-corruption special ANC NEC meeting

By Ferial Haffajee• 27 August 2020

 African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Ace Magashule. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Alon Skuy)


The ANC’S Integrity Commission has summoned the party’s secretary-general Ace Magashule to appear before it to answer questions about a television interview. In July, he told Newzroom Afrika that he would not step down despite numerous allegations about his activities as Free State premier.  

(For an account of the activities, this webinar with Pieter-Louis Myburgh who wrote the book Gangster State about Magashule is a great primer.)

Integrity Commission had initially hoped to meet with you to discuss and clarify the interview with you on Saturday 29 August 2020. We were however advised that there is a Special NEC scheduled for 28 to 30 August 2020. We, therefore, request your audience at any time… during the coming week (1-5 September),” says the letter.   

The Integrity Commission’s chairperson George Mashamba, who signed the letter, believes that Magashule’s television remarks went against the grain of the Commission’s wide mandate to restore the party’s reputation and also against the anti-corruption campaign the ANC is currently mounting.


From Magashule’s side, he is said to view the letter as a further example of the Commission’s alleged “one-sided” findings.  His team wants the Commission to also probe the genesis of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s R500-million funding for his campaign to become ANC president in 2017 and wants it to open an investigation into alleged vote-buying at that conference.    

Either way, the summons to Magashule and the leaking of the letter has upped the ante for what is likely to be a fiery special NEC meeting.

And it’s not the only contentious matter on the agenda.

A delegation of KwaZulu-Natal members met with the former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede this week, who was sworn in earlier this month as a provincial MP, to get her to stand down.

If she does not (and most of her comrades believe she won’t), Gumede is likely to be made to walk the plank at a special meeting of the party’s powerful national executive committee (NEC) this weekend, according to several sources canvassed by Daily Maverick. Gumede has been charged with 16 others as part of a conspiracy to defraud the metro she governed to the tune of between R200-million and R400-million (the quantum is differently reported across court papers; the accused’s next appearance is in September).

Magashule and Gumede are allies and he is unlikely to support a temporary suspension of her (as provided for in the ANC constitution which is clear on what should happen if a member is criminally indicted).

Gumede’s elevation to a member of the provincial legislature from her demotion to councillor was the straw that broke the camel’s back and which pushed Ramaphosa to write an impassioned seven-page plea to ANC members on Monday August 25 to get serious about corruption.

The ANC has been dragged on social media in a viral hashtag called #VoetsekANC which has made party grandees warn that it could lose the next election if it is not seen to take a tough stand on corruption. “It’s the last chance saloon for the ANC.  The opposition offices in Parliament are small,” said an official at the party’s Luthuli House headquarters.    

“We are awaiting the NEC decision,” said ANC KZN spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela, adding, “(we expect it) to conclude holistically on all members”.  Gumede is not the only ANC member who holds office and who has been criminally charged. DM

Zuma’s state legal adviser, Bonisiwe Makhene-Gadini, takes secrets to her grave

With her death at the age of 53 on 26 August, advocate Bonisiwe Makhene-Gadini, Jacob Zuma’s former state legal adviser, takes to her grave many secrets surrounding former president Jacob Zuma’s tumultuous term of office.


Apart from her career with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, which began in 1994, advocate Bonisiwe Makhene-Gadini found herself in the headlines more due to the activities of her husband, the State Security Agency (SSA) rogue spy Yekani Gadini.


Both Makhene-Gadini and Yekani Gadini had access to former president Jacob Zuma’s inner circle.

Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Themba Hadebe / Pool)

Yekani Gadini was connected to a rogue outfit in the SSA, the Special Operations Unit (SOU), which had close connections with Zuma and was found by the High Level Review Panel on the SSA to have been a parallel and illegal intelligence structure. The SOU was headed by Zuma’s “personal” spy Thulani Dlomo. 

Yekani Gadini was also implicated in the SOU’s attempt to set up the bogus Workers Association Union (WAU) in 2014, allegedly at the behest of Zuma, and to counteract the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s popularity in the North West Platinum Belt at Marikana.

A notice on Facebook advertising the memorial service for the late advocate Bonisiwe Makhene-Gadini. (Image: Facebook / The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development)

The spy’s role was exposed when Thebe Maswabi, founding member of the WAU, launched a R120-million civil claim against Zuma and then State Security Minister David Mahlobo, when funding to his union dried up. The cellphone number used to register WAU at the Department of Labour had belonged to Gadini.

Unlike President Thabo Mbeki’s legal adviser, Mojanku Gumbi, who was drawn from the ranks of Azapo, Makhene-Gadini’s political heartland was the ANC. 

Her appointment in 2009 as Zuma’s legal adviser was seen at the time as an attempt by the governing party to drive the transformation of the judiciary according to a resolution adopted at the ANC’s national congress at Polokwane in 2008.

Shortly after he was elected president in 2009, Zuma collected around him an informal team of advisers who would become known as the “engine room”. 

Much to the displeasure of tripartite alliance members the SACP and Cosatu, Zuma relied on these individuals instead of the ANC’s alliance partners to restructure the government and determine policy direction after the Mbeki years.

“By the time our team was established, President Zuma had established this team in secret without informing alliance leadership and they had already done some work,” SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila told the Sunday Times in 2019.


Mapaila at the time said that testimony would be given to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry that it was here, in the “engine room” that policymaking “shifted from the ANC to an unknown secret system”, marking the beginning of what was to become the political project of capturing the state.

The alliance’s “transitional team” had included the ANC top six officials as well as the SACP and Cosatu general secretaries, Blade Nzimande and Zwelinzima Vavi, together with Ayanda Dlodlo, Neil Coleman and Clifford Motsepe. The secretariat was headed by the late Collins Chabane.

Bonisiwe Makhene-Gadini was invited to be part of Zuma’s original engine room along with Thuli Madonsela, Nathi Nhleko, Riah Phiyega, Glen Mashinini, Vincent Magwenya and Mandla Sithole NoZulu. Also linked to the “engine room” was filmmaker Duma Ndlovu.

While Madonsela soon distanced herself from the group, almost everyone else went on to be appointed to key positions in the Zuma administration, including Makhene-Gadini as his legal adviser.

Prior to this, Makhene-Gadini was the DOJ’s director of policy research. In that position she played a central role in drafting at least five judicial reform bills which were introduced in 2004, prompting criticism and an outcry from the judiciary and the legal profession.

The Superior Courts Bill and the Fourteenth Amendment Bill were later reintroduced to Parliament, unaltered, where they faced further opposition before being scrapped by the then president Thabo Mbeki.

Writing in 2007, Amy Gordon and David Bruce, in a paper for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, noted that:


“The saga of the justice bills, ostensibly intended to improve court management and efficiency, rationalise court structures and promote transformation of the judiciary, has been one of the biggest tests for judicial independence in the post-apartheid period.”

While Makhene-Gadini was Zuma’s official state legal adviser, the president also appointed Michael Hulley as his legal adviser in November 2011 “on a part-time basis”. Hulley raked in around R25-million in legal costs over the years as Zuma fought off various legal challenges.

Makhene-Gadini began her career in 1994 as a legal admin officer at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development before being appointed as a special adviser to the then justice minister, Dullah Omar, between 1997 and 1999. 

Between 1999 and 2003 she was a special adviser to Minister Penuell Maduna and assigned as company secretary for the justice ministry board of directors. 

She was seconded as legal adviser to Zuma between 2009 and 2018. After this, she was appointed deputy state law adviser before taking up her position in January 2020 as acting head of the Justice College, where she was employed at the time of her death.

Other high-profile matters which have involved Makhene-Gadini include an attempt by Zuma to force National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana out of office by offering a “settlement proposal”.

Nxasana met with Zuma, his attorney Hulley and Makhene-Gadhini a day before Nxasana’s appointment as NDPP in 2013. When he proved too independent-minded a plan was put in motion to remove him.


Nxasana has given explosive testimony to the Zondo Commission that he did not approach Zuma to ask to be removed from the position, as the former president has stated. 

It was Makhene-Gadini, the commission heard, who had presented Nxasana’s lawyer, Busani Mabunda, with a “settlement proposal” for the NDPP to be released before his term of office had expired. Zuma had also set up an inquiry, chaired by advocate Nazeer Cassim, into Nxasana’s fitness to hold office.

Nxasana was replaced in 2015 by Zuma with the now-disgraced Nomgcobo Jiba.

In 2014 Makhene-Gadini and the then police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, a friend, rushed to the Wierdabrug police station to release Yekani Gadini, who had been kidnapped by his colleagues in the SSA and stuffed in the boot of a VW Polo.

The abduction occurred, wrote Pieter-Louis Myburgh, after Gadini had met with senior SARS officials, and his kidnappers had believed the spy was in possession of documents incriminating SSA agents and tobacco bosses.

Makhene-Gadini, sources told Myburgh, had contacted police personally when she learnt of her husband’s abduction.

Makhene-Gadini’s memorial service takes place on 1 September. She takes to the grave the secrets of a president who has been placed at the centre of the capture of the South African state. DM

Hit Men and Power: South Africa’s Leaders Are Killing One Another

UMZIMKHULU, South Africa — Their fear faded as they raced back home, the bottle of Johnnie Walker getting lighter with each turn of the road.

Soon, Sindiso Magaqa was clapping and bouncing behind the wheel of his beloved V8 Mercedes-Benz, pulling into familiar territory just before dark. Minutes later, men closed in with assault rifles. Mr. Magaqa reached for the gun under his seat — too late.

One of his passengers saw flashes of light, dozens of them, from the spray of bullets pockmarking the doors. The ambush was exactly what Mr. Magaqa had feared. A few months before, a friend had been killed by gunmen in his front yard.

Then, as another friend tried to open his front gate at night, a hit man crept out of the dark, shooting him dead.

Next came Mr. Magaqa, 34. Struck half a dozen times, he hung on for weeks in a hospital before dying last year. All of the assassination targets had one thing in common: They were members of the African National Congress who had spoken out against corruption in the party that defined their lives. “If you understand the Cosa Nostra, you don’t only kill the person, but you also send a strong message,” said Thabiso Zulu, another A.N.C. whistle-blower who, fearing for his life, is now in hiding. “We broke the rule of omertà,” he added, saying that the party of Nelson Mandela had become like the Mafia.
Political assassinations are rising sharply in South Africa, threatening the stability of hard-hit parts of the country and imperiling Mr. Mandela’s dream of a unified, democratic nation. But unlike much of the political violence that upended the country in the 1990s, the recent killings are not being driven by vicious battles between rival political parties. Quite the opposite: In most cases, A.N.C. officials are killing one another, hiring professional hit men to eliminate fellow party members in an all-or-nothing fight over money, turf and power, A.N.C. officials say.
The party once inspired generations of South Africans and captured the imagination of millions around the world — from impoverished corners of Africa to wealthy American campuses. But corruption and divisions have flourished within the A.N.C. in recent years, stripping much of the party of its ideals.

After nearly 25 years in power, party members have increasingly turned to fighting, not over competing visions for the nation, but over influential positions and the spoils that go with them. The death toll is climbing quickly. About 90 politicians have been killed since the start of 2016, more than twice the annual rate in the 16 years before that, according to researchers at the University of Cape Town and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime. The murders have swelled into such a national crisis that the police began releasing data on political killings for the first time this year, while the new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has lamented that the assassinations are tarnishing Mr. Mandela’s dream. But Mr. Ramaphosa is struggling to unite his fractious party before elections next year and has done little to stem the violence.

His administration has even resisted official demands to provide police protection for two A.N.C. whistle-blowers in the case surrounding Mr. Magaqa’s murder, baffling some anti-corruption officials.

The funeral for Sindiso Magaqa, the most prominent African National Congress politician assassinated so far, in Umzimkhulu last September.Credit...Thuli Dlamini/Sunday Times, via Getty Images

The recent assassinations cover a wide range of personal and political feuds. Some victims were A.N.C. officials who became targets after exposing or denouncing corruption within the party. Others fell in internal battles for lucrative posts. In rural areas — where the party has a near-total grip on the economy, jobs and government contracts — the conflict is particularly intense, with officials constantly looking over their shoulders.
Mr. Magaqa’s province, KwaZulu-Natal, is the deadliest of all. Here, 80 A.N.C. officials were killed between 2011 and 2017, the party says. Even relatively low-level ward councilors have bodyguards, and many politicians carry guns themselves. “It was better before we attained democracy, because we knew the enemy — that the enemy was the regime, the unjust regime,” said Mluleki Ndobe, the mayor of the district where Mr. Magaqa and five other A.N.C. politicians have been assassinated in the past year. “Now, you don’t know who is the enemy,” he said.
More than any other, the death of Mr. Magaqa, the most prominent politician assassinated so far, has focused attention on the deadly scramble within the party that helped bring democracy to South Africa. A rising star in the A.N.C. who had become a national figure, Mr. Magaqa returned to local politics in his hometown, Umzimkhulu. After accusing party officials of pocketing millions in the failed refurbishment of a historic building, Mr. Magaqa and two of his allies were killed in rapid succession.
Many others have suffered similar fates. This month in Pretoria, the capital, an A.N.C. councilor who had called for an inquiry into government housing was gunned down while driving her car with her three children. A few months earlier, a party official in a neighboring ward was shot dead near his home after exposing the shoddy quality of public housing.
In Mpumalanga, the province of Deputy President David Mabuza, an A.N.C. city council speaker was gunned down in front of his son outside his home after exposing corruption in the construction of a soccer stadium. Here in KwaZulu-Natal, an A.N.C. councilor critical of corruption was shot to death last year while escorting a friend to her car. In March, an A.N.C. municipal manager known to be tough on corruption was gunned down behind a police station by two hit men. And this month, in a rare arrest, an A.N.C. councilor and the son of an A.N.C. deputy mayor were charged in the killing of an A.N.C. official who had led protests against corruption. But few other political figures have been arrested in such killings, adding to a widening sense of lawlessness.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, center, waving to supporters at an A.N.C. event near Durban this month.Credit...Rajesh Jantilal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The politicians have become like a political mafia,” said Mary de Haas, an expert on political killings who taught at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “It is the very antithesis of democracy, because people fear to speak out.” For good reason. After Mr. Magaqa’s death, Mr. Zulu, the whistle-blower now in hiding, loudly condemned corruption in Umzimkhulu. The impoverished municipal government spent a large chunk of its budget to refurbish a historic building called the Memorial Hall. But after five years and more than $2 million in public money, the project was a sinkhole of dubious spending, with little to show for it. For breaking the code of silence, Mr. Zulu and another party official are now in grave danger, according to a 47-page report released in August by the Office of the Public Protector, a government authority that investigates corruption. The two whistle-blowers, the report said, fear that “they may be assassinated at any time.” The Public Protector’s office urged the national police to provide security for the whistle-blowers and reprimanded Mr. Ramaphosa’s police minister for being “grossly negligent” in failing to do so. But the police minister rejected the report and moved to challenge it in court. The Public Protector had a message for Mr. Ramaphosa as well: The president should “take urgent and appropriate steps” to protect the whistle-blowers. But Mr. Ramaphosa has not responded. Khusela Diko, his spokeswoman, said the president is consulting his police minister. The government’s inaction reflects the A.N.C.’s inability — or unwillingness — to stop the internal warfare because it could expose the extent of corruption and criminality in its ranks, current and former party officials say. “These allegiances go all the way to the top of the party,” said Makhosi Khoza, a prominent former A.N.C. politician who works at OUTA, an organization fighting graft. “That’s why the A.N.C. is not interested in this, no matter how many murders there are.” For decades before the end of apartheid, different factions under the A.N.C.’s umbrella — communists, free marketeers, trade unionists, agents in exile — competed with one another, sometimes violently, as they fought white rule. But the recent increase in killings inside the A.N.C. is a potent reminder of how far the party has strayed from creating, in the ashes of apartheid, a political order based on the rule of law. The Public Protector’s investigation into the Memorial Hall has frozen the renovation. Umzimkhulu’s mayor, Mphuthumi Mpabanga, called the project a “dream” that would change “the lives of the people.” But it has little resonance for many in Umzimkhulu, a vast municipality with pockets of extreme poverty. Margaret Phungula, 60, carries buckets to a muddy stream six times a day for water, adding spoonfuls of chlorine. Shown a photo of the Memorial Hall, she stared blankly. “They’re not thinking of us,” she said of the town’s leaders. “We’re still suffering.”

From Idealism to Violence

In the arc of the A.N.C., Mr. Magaqa and his friends belong to the generation that includes Mr. Mandela’s grandchildren. Too young to have been politically active during white rule, they came of age in a new country — one forged by the party. Their political lives, mirroring the A.N.C.’s post-apartheid trajectory, began with youthful idealism, followed by lost innocence and, ultimately, fratricidal violence. Mr. Zulu, 36, the whistle-blower, always wanted to be an A.N.C. man. His grandmother took part in the A.N.C.-led potato boycott against apartheid in the 1950s, and he felt part of that legacy. In his late teens, he fell in with a group of politically minded young men like himself. One of them stood out immediately: Mr. Magaqa, a skinny, stubborn teenager with a bright smile. The youngest in the group, he quickly became its leader. Mr. Magaqa made a name for himself by leading a strike during high school. When students contributed money for a trip to Cape Town, the principal told them it had been put to other uses. Mr. Magaqa shut down the school for weeks. The early 2000s were a hopeful time for the young men. Their elders in the A.N.C. had gained political freedom for black South Africans, so the young men turned their attention to breaking into an economy still dominated by the white minority. Les Stuta — the second A.N.C. whistle-blower whose life is in danger, according to the Public Protector — was in the group as well. He recounted how they pledged to earn money to help their mothers, who worked as live-in maids for white families far away. “Guys,” Mr. Stuta recalled saying often, “they must come back home.” The young men traveled together across the vast stretches of the rural district to open youth league branches of the A.N.C., borrowing cars or hitchhiking. Finally, in 2004, Mr. Stuta got a car — a beat-up white Ford Escort with a sputtering 1.3-liter engine. The young men stocked it with oil and water to deal with frequent breakdowns along the dirt and gravel roads to remote villages. When Mr. Stuta could not afford to replace the starter for six months, party meetings ended with the young men pushing the car back to life. “That Ford Escort,” Mr. Stuta said, “was everything to us.”

Pattern of Kickbacks and Corruption

By 2006, Mr. Magaqa and his circle got well-paid government jobs in Umzimkhulu. He got a car of his own, with a vanity plate: “Gogwana,” the grandmother who had raised him while his mother worked in Johannesburg. When the A.N.C.’s youth league was established in Umzimkhulu, Mr. Magaqa became the chairman, beginning his rapid rise within the league — traditionally a springboard to leadership in the A.N.C. itself. But something nagged Mr. Zulu. Within a few years, the overriding pursuit of positions and money consumed his peers. Suddenly, some were taking kickbacks, drinking rare whiskeys and prodding Mr. Zulu to drop his high-mindedness. Flipping Jesus’s teaching, they often asked him: Who can live on principle alone? Soon, Mr. Zulu lost his government job and devoted himself to fighting corruption. But life was very different for his friend. At 27, Mr. Magaqa left the province for the national stage in Johannesburg. He became the A.N.C. youth league’s national secretary general, the No. 3 position, in 2011. As soon as he was appointed, he went to a car dealership in a wealthy Johannesburg suburb where he bought an icon of South Africa’s moneyed class: a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle, the ML 500 4Matic. Mr. Magaqa raved about it to his friends back home — its V8 engine, the thunderous noise from the twin exhaust pipes. “He felt like he’s got money,” recalled Phumlani Phumlomo, a childhood friend. How much money Mr. Magaqa made in Johannesburg — and how — were questions Mr. Zulu preferred not to ask. “I don’t know how he acquired his money,” Mr. Zulu said. “Remember, he had access to everyone and anyone who’s big in the country.” It only lasted a few months. Mr. Magaqa fell in one of the countless shake-ups within the A.N.C. and lost his position. He drove his Mercedes straight back to Umzimkhulu and put most of his money into a minor league soccer team, the Blue Birds. He recruited the best players, lodging them in a big house with cable and PlayStations. When his team won on the road — and it won a lot — he put up the players and coach in a hotel. “But then his cash ran out,” said the coach, Mduduzi Ngubane. With his money gone, Mr. Magaqa went back to what he knew best: politics.

A Hit List: ‘After Me, It’s You’

In his political second act, Mr. Magaqa dove headlong into the issue that defined the A.N.C.: corruption. Jacob Zuma, the party’s scandal-plagued leader, was president of the nation, and more than ever, local A.N.C. politicians began killing one another over positions, contracts and jobs. In 2016, when Mr. Magaqa returned to politics, 31 politicians were assassinated, double the number from the year before, according to the tally by researchers. Of that total, 24 were killed in his province. With the backing of regional A.N.C. power brokers, Mr. Magaqa became a councilor in Umzimkhulu and a member of its decision-making body, effectively becoming the leader of an insurgent A.N.C. faction. The sudden return of a political star, someone who could still call on powerful figures in Johannesburg, was seen as an immediate threat to his party rivals in Umzimkhulu. “He was too ambitious,” said the municipal manager, Zweliphansi Skhosana. “That was the problem that he had.” Mr. Skhosana, a former high school teacher, knew Mr. Magaqa all too well. He had taught the young man from 10th grade through 12th grade. The two stood on opposing sides during the strike over money for the Cape Town trip. Now they were facing off again. Regarded as the real power behind Umzimkhulu’s dominant A.N.C. faction, Mr. Skhosana still lived next to the old high school, in the area’s largest house, surrounded by a concrete wall and electrified barbed wire. Right after joining the council, Mr. Magaqa zeroed in on the troubled renovation of the Memorial Hall. Little had been done to it, and the construction of a new annex was proving to be a disaster. A few councilors had already raised concerns, calling it a classic public works boondoggle designed to siphon money into the pockets of politicians and their allies. Jabulile Msiya, a councilor whose ward included the hall, said she had been excluded from meetings on the project after asking too many questions. Experts unconnected to Umzimkhulu’s politics, like Robert Brusse, an architect specializing in heritage buildings, agreed something was wrong. A few weeks after being hired as a consultant for the project in 2016, Mr. Brusse went to see the Memorial Hall for himself. “As I walked onto the site, I said, ‘There’s a rat here. This stinks,”’ he recalled. The new building behind the Memorial Hall was “professionally incompetent” and a “complete waste of money for what is being produced,” he said. Mr. Magaqa and his council allies demanded an independent audit — a motion quashed by the A.N.C.’s dominant faction in the municipality. Mr. Skhosana, the municipal manager, dismissed any possibility of corruption. Mr. Magaqa, he said, was simply trying to stir up trouble to gain control over the local government. He waved away accusations by councilors that the contractor had been chosen because of personal connections to a local official. The contractor simply had a “cash flow” problem, he said. But the contractor, Loyiso Magqaza, contradicted him in a telephone interview, denying any cash flow issues. “They can never” blame me for the project’s failure, he said. Mr. Magaqa, stuck in a deadlock with his former teacher, turned to someone his allies said he trusted fully: his old friend, Mr. Zulu. Mr. Zulu had become a known corruption fighter in the province, gathering evidence and sharing it with officials he trusted. So Mr. Magaqa gave him what he described as official documents about the Memorial Hall. The documents, which were reviewed by The New York Times, showed that after the contractor won the renovation contract in 2013, worth $1.2 million, the municipality paid the company and its subcontractor nearly two-thirds of the money, even though the project was far behind schedule. Two years later, after the company and its subcontractor failed to finish, the municipality hired a different contractor for another $1 million. In all, the documents do not unequivocally prove corruption on their own, but they show the municipality spent nearly all of the money it had budgeted for the hall — and ended up with little to show for it. Mr. Zulu said he had grabbed the files and promised to pursue the case with his contacts in the police. But over the following months, Mr. Magaqa brandished the documents in the council and challenged leaders of the dominant A.N.C. faction, leading Mr. Zulu to wonder whether his old friend was also trying to use the issue to his personal political advantage. The council speaker appeared to be moving over to Mr. Magaqa’s side, according to the speaker’s nephew, Mduduzi Thobela, an old friend who backed Mr. Magaqa during the high school strike. The speaker and Mr. Magaqa had been friendly, and were even related through marriage. Then the killings started. First came the warning: Three bullets pierced the storefront office where the council speaker worked. A few weeks later, the speaker, Khaya Thobela, was sprinkling holy water in a religious rite in his front yard — and was gunned down where he stood. A month later, the councilor expected to replace him, Mduduzi Shibase, was assassinated after opening the gate to his home. He had strongly supported Mr. Magaqa’s call for a forensic audit of the Memorial Hall. Ms. Msiya, the councilor who had asked pointed questions about the project, got a worried call from Mr. Magaqa. “‘Where are you? Don’t go out. I’m coming,’” she recalled him saying. He showed her a “hit list” he got from a friend in a government intelligence agency, she said. “‘It’s going to be me,’” Mr. Magaqa told her. “‘After me, it’s you.’”

‘We’re Not Safe’

On July 13, 2017, a red BMW cased the neighborhood where Mr. Magaqa lived. His neighbors did not recognize the car. It had a license plate from Gauteng, the province where Johannesburg is. Mr. Magaqa, accompanied by Ms. Msiya and other allies, had spent the day in a far corner of Umzimkhulu. But he was in a rush to head back home. The twin killings had shaken him, it was late afternoon, in the dead of South Africa’s winter, and the sun would be setting in no time. “‘Let’s go, we’re not safe,”’ he said, recalled Nontsikelelo Mafa, a councilor and close ally. As always, Mr. Magaqa drove his Mercedes himself and hid his gun under the driver’s seat. His bodyguard and another A.N.C. politician in the car also carried guns. Talk of the killings soon gave way to more pleasant topics during the 45-mile drive. The car stereo played house music, blasting the Distruction Boyz’s “Omunye,” an instant hit about a party. The group was planning a party that evening, too, for Ms. Mafa’s 27th birthday. By the time they got back, the music had Mr. Magaqa jumping in his seat. They pulled over at a hangout by the main road, where the red BMW had been waiting. Mr. Magaqa spotted the hit men first. “Don’t move,” he told the passengers in the back seat. Ms. Mafa saw two men with assault rifles approaching and Mr. Magaqa reaching for his gun. Then, the flashes of light.

Sleeping in a Different Place Every Night

Mr. Zulu’s cellphone rang minutes after the shooting. He reached out to senior police officials he trusted. “The first one hour is decisive,” he said. But the hit men weren’t caught, even though they drove a conspicuous car and had left witnesses: two women in the back seat survived with wounds to their legs. Mr. Magaqa died about eight weeks later — from his injuries, the authorities said. His family insisted he had been recovering and was poisoned. Of the nearly 40 politicians assassinated in South Africa last year, he was the most recognizable. The public broadcaster aired his funeral, five and a half hours long, live from a sports field. Hundreds came, including top A.N.C. politicians and a minister who flew in by helicopter. The speeches were anodyne, or became rallying cries for the party. But Mr. Zulu had none of it. At a service beforehand, he said Mr. Magaqa had been killed for revealing corruption inside the party. Today, fearing for his own life, Mr. Zulu sleeps in a different place every night. Two bodyguards, hired by his extended family, shadow him at all times. The three big men squeeze into his compact Volkswagen, which sinks a few inches every time they get in, as Mr. Zulu wages his one-man crusade against corruption. “The A.N.C. is like an ocean that will cleanse itself,” he said, repeating it so often that he seemed to be trying to convince himself. He, too, says he is fighting for what President Ramaphosa calls a “new dawn” for the nation. So why, he asked, has Mr. Ramaphosa remained silent on the Public Protector’s recommendations to provide him with security? “I’ve been living like a hunted animal,” Mr. Zulu said. In an empty, roofless room, wrapped in heavy blankets against the cold, Mr. Magaqa’s mother spoke about the promises A.N.C. officials made after her son died. His Mercedes sat in a corner of the backyard, riddled with bullets. She was still waiting for the A.N.C. to solve the killing, to take care of her son’s four children, or even to fix his broken cars. “Especially the Mercedes,” she said. “It’s destroyed our family, especially me. Each and every day, I see it, and everything comes back.”

Mabuza’s move and Mboweni’s moan reveals depth of division in party and state

Two seemingly unrelated events over the past 24 hours might give us some indication of where the political and economic year is headed. And early signs are that it won't be pretty. WHAT HAPPENED? First, on Thursday, Deputy President David Mabuza fired a broadside at Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza, saying they had "misled" the president about load shedding. And then, in the early hours of Friday morning, eccentric Finance Minister Tito Mboweni took to social media and went off about the country's imminent ratings downgrade, declaring: "You were warned and chose to ignore wise warnings!!" (With two exclamation marks). WHY SHOULD WE TAKE NOTE OF IT? Mabuza and Mboweni may serve in the same Cabinet, but they aren't on the same team. And Mabuza's attack on Gordhan and Mboweni's frustration reveal the depth and extent to which President Cyril Ramaphosa's attempts to rescue the state and country are being stymied. HOW IMPORTANT IS MABUZA? He's had a quiet time of it as Ramaphosa's Number Two. Recall that he made his big power play at the ANC's elective conference in 2017, throwing in his lot with Ramaphosa, rather than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, thereby securing the pole position to succeed Ramaphosa when his term of office ends. Since being appointed deputy president, he has been out of the news, quietly trying to clean up his image as strongman politician from a provincial backwater, and someone who has been implicated in various alleged crimes. There have been few public appearances and his parliamentary statements have by and large gone unnoticed. There haven't been many public indicators of what Mabuza's plans are. And it's also unclear what exactly his beliefs are or what his ideology entails. What is clear though is that, before he became deputy president, he was a gun for hire, and that he didn't commit to Ramaphosa until the last minute. He has also publicly attacked the reformist minded Mboweni, once declaring that he doesn't take him (Mboweni) "seriously". His statement that Gordhan and Jabu Mabuza misled the president is significant. Gordhan is Ramaphosa's man, of that there is no doubt. He has been backed to the hilt by the president and is regarded as the man who will do the dirty work. When he makes a move, or a big announcement, it is done with the blessing of the president. They are in lock step. Similarly, Jabu Mabuza's appointment as Eskom chairperson was done at the insistence of Ramaphosa, mere days after he was elected ANC leader.Misleading the president is a serious accusation. And by saying what he has, Mabuza has located himself in opposition to Gordhan and, in effect, to Ramaphosa.

12 000 'dead people' doing business with SA government, says Treasury

t has also identified about 14,000 state employees who are listed as directors of companies that have been awarded state contracts in violation of regulations

South Africa’s National Treasury has discovered about 12,000 dead people in its register of companies that do business with the state. This is among the outcomes of a clean-up of the information system that the Treasury’s procurement office undertook as the government battles to rein in spending, said Schalk Human, the unit’s acting head. It has also identified about 14,000 state employees who are listed as directors of companies that have been awarded state contracts in violation of regulations. “We will report on them even if we drag those 14,000 to court by their hair and lock them up,” Human said in an interview this month in Pretoria, the capital.

Exposed SA pres Cyril Ramaphosa dishonest on farm murders Pieter Groenewald

Ramaphosa blatantly dishonest with the world regarding farm murders.

Media release by:
Dr. Pieter Groenewald
FF Plus leader
27 September 2018

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s denial of farm murders and land grabbing in South Africa at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York is dishonest and comes down to a blatant lie. It is a poor attempt to pull the wool over the international community’s eyes.

The President is either totally ignorant or he is busy trying to create a false impression with the United Nations (UN) and the rest of the world, particularly with regard to farm murders. The fact the police has recently released statistics on farm murders and attacks as well as earlier police reports on farm attacks go to show that farm attacks and murders are a reality and, therefore, it is incomprehensible that the President of our country is in denial about it and thus lets our farmers down.

On the one hand, he says that farmers are important, but then on the other, he sells them out abroad. A police report compiled as far back as 2003, found that the reasons for farm murders are political in nature; that it is related to the land issue, that racism plays a role and that general crime is another contributing factor. If the President truly wanted to be honest with the world, he should have asked for international help to see how the world can contribute to effectively combat crime in South Africa, and in particular farm murders, which is partly the result of the inadequate rural safety system and strategy in South Africa.

It is a well-known fact that land grabs have taken place at various places in South Africa and that the land grabbers were only successfully removed by means of a court order in a few of the incidents. There number of illegal land occupations (land grabs) far exceed the number of cases where illegal land occupants are removed by means of a court order. That is the reality in South Africa. Dr Pieter Groenewald, leader of the FF Plus, will raise the matter in Parliament and will insist that the President must explain these false statements.

Eskom wants R1.8 billion for performance bonuses

Eskom wants to pay R1.8 billion in performance bonuses, despite the company’s dismal financial situation and its inability to keep the lights on. In recent years Eskom has become the poster child of state capture and failed state-owned enterprises, and is now the biggest risk to the South African economy. The power utility’s debt is sitting at a staggering R450 billion, it is massively overstaffed, it lacks critical skills, it has ageing power stations, and its maintenance is a mess.

Problems at Eskom were in full display in recent weeks when load-shedding hit a record stage 6 in December and made an unwelcome return again on Saturday night. Despite these problems, Eskom wants to reward its workforce for a job well done with R1.8 billion in performance bonuses between 2019 and 2022. Rapport reported that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) said Eskom did not reveal this plan in its tariff applications. According to Nersa, these bonuses are within management’s control and should not be allowed while Eskom is financially unstable. How much money Eskom is losing
Over the last financial year, Eskom posted a net loss of R20.7 billion. While the government is promising to turn Eskom around, most South Africans are skeptical as they have heard this statement many times before. The company continues to be dogged by poor governance, corruption, maladministration, and cadre deployment, with no end in sight.

Chilling assessment: BEE has de-industrialized SA, pushed it backwards in time

Zimbabwe had land expropriation as the spark that caused its economy to implode. South Africa has a slower, but equally insidious, government policy that is pushing it backwards in time: Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). This warped system has enabled corrupt individuals to benefit personally from contracts as the country’s key services have steadily eroded. While BEE provided the mechanisms for state capture, the SA-specific term for wide-scale graft, it has also facilitated the spread of parasites that have, and continue to, suck the life-blood out of the country.

This is the assessment of environmental expert Professor Anthony Turton, who warned some years back that Eskom was in critical condition – but no-one was listening. Now raw sewage flows in many streets and the electricity is turned off for hours on end, in what looks like a return of sorts to the dark ages, he points out. Turton’s article, republished here with kind permission of the Daily Friend, makes for depressing reading early in the year. But, perhaps this time our leaders are listening and have the appetite to make major changes? – Jackie Cameron

ANC slams 'inhumane' US airstrikes in Iraq, labels it 'international terrorism'

The African National Congress has slammed what it calls "inhumane" airstrikes by the United States in Iraq, which saw General Qassem Soleimani, Commander of Iranian Quds Force killed. The governing party called on the United Nations to take action against "this act of international terrorism" and for restraint between countries. In a statement on Saturday, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule described the airstrikes as an attack on the people of Iran.

"The ANC and all progressive formations of the world cannot afford to remain silent while the actions of the US appear to be undermining peace and security with impunity - a clear and deliberate erosion of Iran's national "We urge the nations of the world, through the United Nations, to act firmly and expeditiously against this act of international terrorism. We urge all parties to this conflict to give peace a chance. We appeal for maximum restraint. Magashule said.

‘They Eat Money’: How Mandela’s Political Heirs Grow Rich Off Corruption

VREDE, South Africa — With loudspeakers blaring, city officials drove across the black township’s dirt roads in a pickup truck, summoning residents to the town hall.

The main guest was a local figure who had soared up the ranks of the governing African National Congress and come back with an enticing offer. Over the next few hours, the visiting political boss, Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, sold them on his latest deal: a government-backed dairy farm that they, as landless black farmers, would control.

They would get an ownership stake in the business, just by signing up. They would go to India for training, all expenses paid. To hear him tell it, the dairy would bring jobs to the impoverished, help build a clinic and fix the roads. “He said he wanted to change our lives,” said Ephraim Dhlamini, who, despite suspicions that the offer was too good to be true, signed up to become a “beneficiary” of the project.

“This thing is coming from the government, free of charge. You can’t say you don’t like this thing. You must take it.” But, sure enough, his instincts were right. The dairy farm turned out to be a classic South African fraud, prosecutors say: Millions of dollars from state coffers, meant to uplift the poor, vanished in a web of bank accounts controlled by politically connected companies and individuals. The money from an array of state contracts like this one helped pay for a lavish wedding that a top executive at KPMG, the international accounting firm, described as “an event of the millennium,” according to leaked emails. And Mr. Zwane, continuing his meteoric rise, soon leaped to the national stage to become South Africa’s minister of mineral resources. Almost nothing trickled down to the township or the scores of would-be beneficiaries after that first meeting in 2012. The only local residents to get a free trip to India were members of a church choir headed by Mr. Zwane. In the generation since apartheid ended in 1994, tens of billions of dollars in public funds — intended to develop the economy and improve the lives of black South Africans — have been siphoned off by leaders of the A.N.C., the very organization that had promised them a new, equal and just nation. Corruption has enriched A.N.C. leaders and their business allies — black and white South Africans, as well as foreigners. But the supposed beneficiaries of many government projects, in whose names the money was spent, have been left with little but seething anger and deepening disillusionment with the state of post-apartheid South Africa. While poverty has declined since the end of apartheid, inequality has risen in a society that was already one of the world’s most unequal, according to a recent report by the World Bank and the South African government. Editors’ Picks
The TikTok House Wreaking Havoc Next Door The Agonizing Question: Is New York City Worth It Anymore? The Shirts Were Red. The Fans Were All White. South Africa has a large, advanced economy, an aggressively free press and a wealth of independent organizations and scholars who keep a close watch on government malfeasance.

But even with its vibrant democracy, in which the details of corruption schemes are routinely aired and condemned by the news media and opposition politicians, graft has engulfed the country. The nation was governed for nine years by the scandal-plagued President Jacob Zuma, whose close ties with the Gupta family — three Indian brothers at the helm of a sprawling business empire built on government contracts, including the dairy farm — outraged voters.

Their cozy relationship contributed to the A.N.C.’s recent electoral losses and helped lead to Mr. Zuma’s ouster two months ago. Promising a “new dawn,” Mr. Zuma’s replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said that he would make fighting corruption a priority as the nation’s new president. But he is also a veteran A.N.C. insider, and the early signs have not been encouraging. Having become party leader by a razor-thin margin, Mr. Ramaphosa has tried to keep together a fractured A.N.C. by moving cautiously.

He formed his first cabinet by appointing some well-respected officials, but also included allies — his own and Mr. Zuma’s — who have been accused of corruption by the Public Protector’s office and good governance groups. Beyond that, politicians who long oversaw provinces rife with public corruption, including the one where the dairy farm is, now sit at the top of the A.N.C.’s hierarchy. National prosecutors, often criticized for being servile to the sitting president, say they are trying to recover more than $4 billion lost to corruption related to the Gupta family’s undue influence on Mr. Zuma’s administration. And that is just a small measure of the corruption that has whittled away at virtually every institution in the country, including schools, public housing, the police, the power utility,

South African Airways and state enterprises overseeing everything from rail service to the defense industry. Almost no one comes out of this looking good. At just under $21 million, the money lost in the Vrede dairy farm may seem small. But it is a big test of whether South Africa’s new government has the power and the will to confront public corruption at its source. The police have apprehended some low- and midlevel officials involved in the dairy farm, the first arrests related to a high-profile case of public corruption during the Zuma presidency.

But notably, they have yet to pursue any A.N.C. officials. Mr. Zwane has not faced any charges.

What’s more, the provincial premier who approved the project, Ace Magashule, was recently elected secretary general of the A.N.C., elevating him to the top ranks of the party’s leadership. The endless scandals have also raised serious questions about the complicity of major Western companies, with multiple investigations scrutinizing the role they may have played in enabling corruption and weakening the country’s institutions. South African regulators have urged the police to begin a criminal inquiry into McKinsey, the American consulting giant, over its relationship with a Gupta-linked company in a contract involving a state-owned utility.

A South African court has frozen the $83 million McKinsey was paid for the contract, and the firm says it will return the fee. Regulators say they have also pressed the police to investigate KPMG, the Big Four auditing firm based in the Netherlands, for its work for the national revenue service in 2015. KPMG has acknowledged that elements of the work “should no longer be relied upon” and offered to pay back its consulting fees. SAP, the German software behemoth, is being investigated by the United States Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission after it disclosed payments to intermediaries on state contracts that may have contravened the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. International banks have been ensnared in the scandals, too. HSBC and Standard Chartered have been accused by a British lawmaker of laundering the Guptas’ ill-gotten gains.

HSBC says it has closed a number of accounts that belonged to front companies operated by the Gupta family. Many trace the deep corruption in the nation to a fundamental flaw in South Africa’s transition from white rule to democracy a generation ago.

In the grand bargain struck between the apartheid government and the A.N.C., headed by Nelson Mandela, a transfer of power was carried out peacefully, disproving predictions of civil war and earning Mr. Mandela accolades as a visionary peacemaker. But the deal was reached on what many South Africans today consider Pyrrhic terms: The black majority was allowed to control politics, but much of the country’s economic resources, including land, has remained in the hands of white South Africans and a small group of other elites. In the early years of A.N.C. rule, Mr. Mandela and other top leaders, who had helped defeat apartheid but had no personal savings, received houses, vehicles and money from white business leaders — essentially bribes, critics say. A smattering of influential figures, like the current president, Mr. Ramaphosa, amassed extraordinary wealth. They were allowed to buy shares of white-owned companies on extremely generous terms and invited to sit on corporate boards.

They acted as conduits between the governing party and the white-dominated business world. Some of the A.N.C. leaders who were left out of that bonanza quickly found a new road to wealth: lucrative government contracts.

The public tap became a legitimate source of wealth for the well connected, but also a wellspring of corruption and political patronage, much as it had been for the white minority during apartheid. Over the years, Mr. Zuma and his allies, while never admitting corruption, often played down its corrosive effect on society and emphasized the need to redistribute wealth to black South Africans.

It is an argument that Mr. Zuma is expected to make in defending himself against recently reinstated charges of corruption in an arms deal from the late 1990s. While Mr. Mandela is still revered in the West, his legacy is regarded more critically in South Africa, especially by some young black people. To them, he sold out the country’s black masses to the white business elite. Even some of Mr. Mandela’s longtime supporters struggle to defend the deal that he struck to bring democracy to South Africa. Ultimately, it left most black people in poverty while benefiting a small elite, including the chief negotiator during the talks, Mr. Ramaphosa. After 27 years as a political prisoner, Mr. Mandela did not understand South Africa’s political economy and agreed to a settlement that failed to secure black South Africans’ economic independence, said Mamphela Ramphele, an anti-apartheid activist who became close to Mr. Mandela.

She later went on to serve as a managing director of the World Bank. “He didn’t know any better,” Ms. Ramphele said. Entrenched Inequalities The dairy farm case is emblematic of the many ills afflicting South Africa a quarter-century after the end of apartheid. It shows how corruption, in a government controlled at all levels by a single party, has entrenched old racial inequalities. About 125 miles southeast of Johannesburg, in the province of Free State, Vrede is a small farming town with discount chain stores, two supermarkets and a gas station.

A cemetery and a police station — buffers during the apartheid era — still separate Vrede from the neighboring black township of Thembalihle. As in so many other townships, the level of local corruption can be quickly gauged by the quality of government housing for the poor.

In one of the most common sources of corruption, money and building materials are diverted from a housing project, often leaving behind shoddy dwellings for poor residents who have waited years or decades to move out of shacks. In a new outpost of the township, single-family government houses were so poorly built that many have collapsed, while new houses are being erected on shaky foundations and frames, with deep cracks spreading across extremely thin walls. In many ways, the area is a microcosm of the enduring economic imbalance in South Africa.

Nationally, black people make up 80 percent of the population, but most remain shut out of economic opportunities. White people, accounting for 8 percent, retain an oversize influence on the economy. Nearly all of the commercial farmers around Vrede are white, as is the main government contractor. In the adjoining township, black people operate small taverns and basic carwashes.

But in the town of Vrede itself, white people still own all of the faded buildings on the main street, where they — along with immigrants from other African nations and countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh — operate shops. Black people, who were not allowed to live in the town under apartheid, now own or rent only about 10 percent of its residences. “This system that was built for us, blacks, it’s very difficult for us to create our own businesses,” said Veli Thulani Tshabalala, 29, who runs a computer and cellphone repair shop with his cousin.

They are the only black South Africans to operate a store in Vrede. Pieter Bergh, 83, a white South African who served on Vrede’s City Council in the years immediately before and after the end of apartheid, agreed that little has changed for black South Africans since 1994 and that the economic inequality has remained static. “They only received the power to vote — that was all,” Mr. Bergh said, adding that he “definitely” considered that a historical mistake. In the late 1990s, officials were purged from city government and replaced by A.N.C. appointees with little experience. The purge, which occurred at all levels of government across the nation, contributed to the corruption that emerged toward the end of Mr. Mandela’s term. Here in Free State, one of the first post-apartheid cases of corruption in government revolved around Mr. Magashule, the A.N.C.’s current secretary general. Mr. Magashule, now 59, has served as the party’s leader in Free State since the very end of apartheid in 1994. He grew up in Parys, a small town in the province.

During apartheid, he was an underground A.N.C. operative whose boldness caught the attention of Winnie Mandela, Nelson’s wife and an anti-apartheid activist. After white rule ended, he oversaw economic development in the cabinet of the first post-apartheid provincial premier, Mosiuoa Lekota.

In an interview, Mr. Lekota said he had caught Mr. Magashule stealing government funds — a charge that Mr. Magashule, whose spokespeople did not respond to interview requests for this article, has long denied. Mr. Lekota said he had fired Mr. Magashule, but was overruled by his patron, the A.N.C.’s deputy secretary general at the time: Mr. Zuma. In the early days after the end of apartheid, Mr. Zuma openly complained about the A.N.C. leaders who were getting rich. Most — like Mr. Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale, another anti-apartheid activist — were favorites of Mr. Mandela. “Zuma did go to some of the other guys and said to them, ‘This is what Mandela is doing.

We must wake up and we must go for the money ourselves,’ ” said Mr. Lekota, who left the A.N.C. to found his own party, the Congress of the People, in 2008. Mr. Magashule went on to flourish inside Free State. He became premier of the province in 2009 just as Mr. Zuma became president. Like other powerful premiers, he was able to turn his province into a fief, said Mr. Lekota and several provincial officials from the A.N.C., as well as its historical ally, the South African Communist Party. Taxes are mostly collected by the national government, and the money is redistributed to the provinces, where it is spent with little oversight. Free State — a rural economy where black people remain dependent on the A.N.C. for jobs and government contracts — has remained a stronghold for the party even as it has lost support among middle-class black voters in urban areas. Mr. Magashule’s ambitions, however, were never confined to the province. Like Mr. Zuma, he forged a relationship with the Gupta brothers, who had befriended some high-ranking A.N.C. figures after arriving in South Africa from their native India in the early 1990s.

Mr. Magashule’s son, Tshepiso, worked for the Guptas, and, according to emails leaked from a Gupta-company server, served as a conduit to his father’s office. Under Mr. Magashule’s governance, many of the province’s public services departments teetered on the brink of insolvency, according to A.N.C. officials and opposition parties.

In a harsh report in 2017, the national auditor said that Free State’s government showed “a lack of accountability and commitment towards clean administration,” adding that the situation had worsened in recent years. “If you find that the one who is supposed to be the custodian of the purse like the premier — he is the one who is involved in corrupt practices — it becomes easy then for others also to get involved,” said Thabo Manyoni, an A.N.C. official in Free State who was once a close friend and deputy of Mr. Magashule. “You end up in a situation where nobody is able to stop anyone else because we all are doing it,” Mr. Manyoni said. Suspicions From the Start To many, the dairy farm project appeared to be a swindle from the beginning. For starters, there were ample suspicions about the pitchman, Mr. Zwane. “I know this guy,” said Mr. Dhlamini, the would-be beneficiary who was also the chairman of Vrede’s arm of the African Farmers Association, a national organization for black farmers. “I don’t trust him.” As he climbed the political ranks, Mr. Zwane often came back to Thembalihle, the black township next to Vrede.

Sometimes, he doled out fistfuls of cash from the trunk of his latest luxury car, said A.N.C. and opposition politicians, as well as many residents. Throughout the township and town, many people shared the same wariness of Mr. Zwane. His meteoric rise had been too fast and seemed tied to the corruption taking hold in the A.N.C. and in Free State. Mr. Zwane, who declined through a spokesman to comment for this article, grew up on a nearby farm and moved to Thembalihle in his teens.

People remember him as an undistinguished student who, after high school, taught the children of black farm laborers in a nearby village where he met his future wife.

The couple lived next to the school building, in a low, two-room concrete structure that is still used as a schoolteacher’s residence. There, villagers remember Mr. Zwane as an engaged teacher, at least until he became a district councilor and his interests turned to politics.

Soon, Mr. Zwane rose swiftly in the party, as well as in local and district governments, thanks in great part to his close relationship with the province’s head of the A.N.C., Mr. Magashule, according to politicians in Free State.

He joined Mr. Magashule’s cabinet in 2009 and a few years later took over the agriculture portfolio. When Mr. Zwane became the provincial minister of agriculture, many black farmers in Vrede rejoiced. Like others in the country, they had neither capital nor land.

With a local son heading the province’s department of agriculture, they thought their “lives were going to change,” recalled Meshack Ncongwane, the deputy chairman of Vrede’s African Farmers Association. A dozen black farmers from Vrede chartered a bus, each paying about $20, to attend Mr. Zwane’s swearing-in ceremony in the provincial capital, Bloemfontein, about four hours away. Even the association’s chairman, the skeptical Mr. Dhlamini, went along. “We were happy,” Mr. Ncongwane said, adding, in hindsight, “although we were happy for a crook.” In 2012, Mr. Zwane and agricultural department officials arrived in Vrede to promote the dairy farm project. Flanked by the council speaker, Roseline Zwane, known as Topsy — who happened to be his wife — and by his longtime ally, Mayor Tlokotsi John Motaung, Mr. Zwane told the crowd about a dairy farm that would empower black farmers and create 150 jobs. Shortly afterward, his department signed the first of its two dairy farm agreements with a company called Estina. This was a peculiar choice. Estina was to buy cows for local farmers and process milk at the farm. But the company was headed by a businessman from India who had a background in information technology — not in farming. Yet, importantly, he had long worked for the Guptas. Despite the project’s sketchy details, Mr. Zwane signed off on it and asked the provincial treasury to start paying Estina, according to an investigation by the National Treasury.

Initially, he was overruled by lawyers in Mr. Magashule’s office, who deemed the contract invalid because procurement rules, like a competitive bid, had not been followed. But that was only a hiccup. The province signed another contract with Estina the following month — this time with the lawyers’ blessing.

That agreement stated that Estina would invest just under $20 million in the project and the province would contribute about $30 million over three years. Local farmers, the so-called beneficiaries, would retain 51 percent of the shares. There was “something fishy” from the start, said Doctor Radebe, who was a councilor for the opposition Democratic Alliance in Vrede. Mr. Zwane and the agricultural officials presented no business plan or budget for the project, but they and the mayor insisted on pressing ahead, Mr. Radebe said. The local municipality quickly decided to hand over 3,400 hectares, or about 8,400 acres, of land for the dairy farm. In fact, the municipality was so determined to get the project underway that it compensated four white commercial farmers, who had been leasing the land for about $80,000 a year, in order to prematurely break their leases.

Later that year, just before Mr. Zwane and his local choir left for India, on a trip sponsored by a Gupta company, the province leased the farm to Estina — rent-free, for 99 years. In an interview, Mayor Motaung said, “We had no doubt that the plan will work.” But the mayor acknowledged that Mr. Zwane presented no detailed plan or document about the proposed dairy farm. Even basic details — like the criteria for selecting the beneficiaries — were missing, the mayor said, acknowledging that his role in the project was now under scrutiny. The payments to Estina began months later. Court documents show that the province deposited just under $21 million in two Estina bank accounts over three years.

Days after every payment, the company transferred the entire sum to other accounts.

From there, prosecutors say, the money was withdrawn by individuals and other Gupta-linked companies that had little to do with the farm. In fact, prosecutors say that only about 1 percent of the money invested by the province actually went into dairy farming.

Beyond that, the National Treasury found no evidence that Estina ever invested its own money in the project, despite its obligation to do so. Emails leaked from a Gupta company server indicate that some of the money was sent to the United Arab Emirates and put into accounts registered to the Guptas.

The money then made its way back to South Africa through a maze of bank transfers, according to spreadsheets, logs and an invoice in the email trove. The emails, amounting to thousands of exchanges, were leaked last year to South African news organizations and an anti-corruption group.

It is not known who leaked them, though they soon fanned national outrage at the Gupta family and at Mr. Zuma.

The Guptas denied the authenticity of the emails, but some A.N.C. officials included in the correspondence confirmed that they were real. In one of the emails, Gupta companies paid one another for expenses at a relative’s lavish four-day wedding in 2013, including fireworks, dancers, chocolates and scarves. In another exchange, KPMG, then an auditor of the Gupta companies, ignored a junior employee’s protest and allowed the Gupta family to write off some of the expenses at the wedding as business costs. “I have never been to an event like that,” Moses Kgosana, a KPMG executive who attended the wedding, gushed to a Gupta brother in one of the emails, calling it “an event of the millennium.” The accounting firm has since acknowledged that its actions “fell well short of the quality expected.” Many of the problems surrounding the dairy farm could have been ignored had the province not tried to tap into a national fund for struggling farmers.

The national government initially agreed to give about $4 million to the project on the condition that the province submit, among other things, a list of 100 poor farmers who would benefit from the farm. When the government found no evidence that local farmers were involved, it sent National Treasury auditors to investigate in 2013. Though Mr. Zwane, sometimes accompanied by his wife, had held meetings to look for beneficiaries, no official list had been drawn. After the auditors started asking questions, a list of beneficiaries — between 80 and 100, depending on the version — was hastily assembled. Some were genuine farmers. “Others, they are not even farmers,” Mr. Radebe said, adding that many were A.N.C. supporters. “They don’t even have a cat.” Estina did try its hand at dairy farming in Vrede. When the National Treasury’s investigators visited in 2013, they found about 350 cows and some buildings under construction.

But the seemingly inflated costs — including $215,000 for a manually sliding gate and a guardhouse — drew scrutiny from the opposition party. And while the beneficiaries were supposedly the farm’s owners, they were never informed of the project’s developments. They were not even allowed to visit the premises. Those who were serious about farming started to complain. At a meeting with officials in the provincial government, Mr. Dhlamini and Mr. Ncongwane, of the African Farmers Association, said that when they raised questions about the project, they were dismissed as noisy “frogs.” That especially stung Mr. Dhlamini, who once was the only black South African business owner in Vrede. He ran a small record store called “Siyathuthuka,” or “We’re moving forward,” in the Zulu language, but was forced to shutter his store because of rising rents. He was now focused full time on farming and owned 35 cows. In early 2014, the National Treasury sent a scathing report to Mr. Magashule, the premier of Free State, and told the province to stop paying Estina.

But it took Free State another six months to take the farm back. The province even continued to pay Estina another $11 million after officially terminating the contract, court documents show. In the end, a project meant to empower black farmers like Mr. Dhlamini further enriched the Guptas and one of the wealthiest white men in Vrede, Willie Basson.

With a fleet of vehicles, construction equipment and billboards advertising his business all over town, Mr. Basson is the main government contractor in Vrede and helped build the dairy farm. But he said that Estina mismanaged the business so badly that he ended up having to dig graves for as many as 100 cows, even though he had delivered feed for them. “They just do projects like this to get money,” he said in an interview in his office. “That’s how they operate, but, luckily, they paid me every cent,” Mr. Basson said. “Hey! It’s rotten in this place here,” he exclaimed, pounding on the table in front of him. “And we work with all of them, so we know.” Ignoring Alarms It was a measure of how corrupt South Africa had become a generation after the end of apartheid that nothing was done about the Vrede dairy farm case for years. The national police and prosecutors looked away even after the National Treasury raised alarms about the project. In Free State, some who spoke out against public corruption were suddenly killed in circumstances that, even in a country with widespread violent crime, aroused suspicions. Moses Tshake, a provincial government auditor who inquired about projects in the agriculture department, was killed in a carjacking in 2013. In Warden, a town where Mr. Zwane has a large home, Vusi Mlaba, a politician who had campaigned against corruption in public housing, was fatally shot a dozen times just outside his home in 2016. Police investigations resulted in no arrests in either case. As for Mr. Zwane, the dairy farm hardly hurt his career. During Mr. Zuma’s presidency, the Gupta brothers increasingly acquired economic and political influence by forging close ties with the president, his son and political allies like Mr. Magashule, the provincial premier who endorsed the dairy farm project. A lawyer for Atul Gupta, from whom prosecutors tried to recover public money spent on the dairy farm, did not respond to a request for an interview with his client. The Guptas’ influence, and possibly direct role, in the appointment of ministers and other important government officials has been investigated by the Public Protector and is expected to be a focus of a recently begun government inquiry into public corruption. In August 2015, according to the leaked emails, Tony Gupta, the youngest of the three brothers, forwarded Mr. Zwane’s résumé to Duduzane Zuma, one of the president’s sons, who was a director of many companies operated by the Guptas.

Two months later, Mr. Zwane, whose highest qualification is a teacher’s diploma, became South Africa’s new minister of mineral resources, one of the most important — and potentially lucrative — portfolios. Shortly after his appointment, Mr. Zwane went to Zurich with Tony Gupta and met with an executive from Glencore, the giant international commodities and mining firm.

At the time, the Guptas were trying to buy a Glencore coal mine. In a 2016 report on corruption, the Public Protector called Mr. Zwane’s lobbying in Switzerland “potentially unlawful.” The ‘Premier League’ Last December, A.N.C. delegates from all over the country chose Mr. Magashule, Free State’s longtime premier, as the party’s secretary general — one of the top four positions in the party.

Mr. Magashule had been one of Mr. Zuma’s fiercest backers, along with two other provincial premiers who became known in the South African news media as the “premier league.” They had endorsed Mr. Zuma’s chosen candidate as the A.N.C.’s next president. But, at the last minute, one of the premiers, David Mabuza, switched sides, handing a narrow victory to Mr. Ramaphosa.

Afterward, Mr. Ramaphosa made Mr. Mabuza — whose province, Mpumalanga, became known for political killings and endemic corruption during Mr. Mabuza’s decade as premier — the nation’s deputy president. With a new president in charge, the national police and prosecutors have started moving against some individuals involved in the dairy farm case.

Eight people were charged with fraud, and others had their assets linked to the farm frozen. But a judge released most of the frozen assets in March. The next court hearing in the criminal case is scheduled for August. Mr. Zwane, who was not appointed to Mr. Ramaphosa’s new cabinet, has kept out of the public eye in recent weeks.

Neither he nor Mr. Magashule has shown any willingness to answer questions about the dairy farm from the news media or Parliament — reinforcing the public perception that A.N.C. officials are above the law. “What has gone wrong has gone wrong under their watch,” said Mathole Motshekga, a senior A.N.C. official who is a member of the party’s decision-making body, the national executive committee, and is also chairman of Parliament’s justice committee.

“We expect, and the public expects, that they should take responsibility for what has happened. We are waiting to hear what they have to say, because we don’t expect people in such positions to be absentee landlords.” But many have given up on the A.N.C. Though the money lost in the dairy farm paled in comparison to the scale of corruption inside South Africa’s state-owned enterprises, it resonated deeply across the nation.

Government money meant to help poor farmers simply vanished, the way it does across South Africa, and so far none of the A.N.C. officials in charge at the local or provincial levels have been held to account. As Mr. Ramaphosa pledges to clean up the South Africa he has inherited from Mr. Zuma, this case will test his capacity to do just that. A spokeswoman for Mr. Ramaphosa said he was unavailable for interviews.
One of the would-be beneficiaries, Adam Khatide, 55, retired early from his teaching job believing that the Vrede dairy farm would take off. In the fallout, he lost faith in the power of his vote. “It’s voting for nothing,” he said. “Just taking people, putting them in office, and then they eat money.” When democracy arrived for black people in 1994, Mr. Khatide drove elderly neighbors to voting stations, where they elected Mr. Mandela as the first president of the new South Africa. “We managed to bring democracy, which is not working for us now. It’s working for individuals,” Mr. Khatide said, laughing. “I cannot cry. When I’m crying, it’s just the same. It’s better I must laugh.”