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Author : George Negota, Gertrude Shope, Isaac Makopo

Final Report of Commission of Enquiry into allegations against Mathole Motshekga

24 April 1998

  1. Introduction

This is the report of an internal ANC commission of enquiry into certain allegations regarding Mr Mathole Motshekga. The commission was established on the 4th of February 1998 by the national office bearers of the ANC in terms of a National Executive Committee decision, taken at the NEC meeting of 19-20 January 1998. The commission was tasked with probing the veracity of allegations relating to Mr Motshekga`s actions, treatment of international donor funding, and management style during specifically the period that he headed the National Institute for Public Interest Law and Research ("Nipilar") in the late 1980`s and early 1990`s. The commission was composed of George Negota (chair), Gertrude Shope and Isaac Makopo. During the course of the commission`s proceedings, the oral evidence of 22 individuals including that of Mr Motshekga himself was heard. Apart from oral evidence the commission analysed a fair amount of documentation relating to the functioning of Nipilar, most of which was produced by witnesses who appeared in person. As financial and time constraints made it impossible for representatives from the Irish funding agency Trocaire to travel to South Africa, the commission obtained written responses to questions posed from Trocaire, as well as from the project officer dealing with the Nipilar account at the time.

  1. Terms of reference

The terms of reference with which the commission was tasked, broadly sets out five categories of allegation regarding Motshekga. The commission dealt with the five areas of allegation in the following manner:

  • Area one, as allegations that all have dishonesty as basis; namely misappropriation, self-enrichment and fraud.
  • Area two, as allegations regarding bad management; including an assessment of general management skills, planning skills, punctuality, and very particularly, financial management skills and accountability, or lack thereof. This area covers the question whether or not there was un-approved use of international donor funding.
  • Area three, as allegations of an autocratic management style.
  • Area four as allegations of nepotism.
  • Area five as allegations that the contacts Motshekga might have had with certain individuals, has had detrimental impact on the ANC.

Important to appreciate is the fact that the areas of allegations are related to one another, and should not be understood as watertight separate compartments. The commission has not placed emphasis on the use or abuse of international donor funding as opposed to any other funding, for the simple reason that Nipilar was at that time almost entirely dependent on funding from abroad. Ten years ago South Africa was a very different place than it is now. Our society was indeed in a state of emergency. Internal mass based resistance against the minority regime was at its peak. The regime in turn was wounded, and had become angrier, more violent and more abusive of our people`s dignity and lives than ever. Accordingly the commission has taken due care to weigh and analyse the evidence presented to it within the political context of the mid 1980`s and early 1990`s.

  1. Background

The background to the establishment of the commission is to be understood in two historical phases; the first playing off almost ten years ago, and the second one much more recently.

Motshekga established the (National) Institute for Public Interest and Research during the mid eighties. The institute was comprised of legal advise centres and had as primary objective the provision of legal advice to people who would not otherwise have had access to it. One of the first major funders was Trocaire, the Catholic Agency for World Development. Trocaire applied for funding from the European Union Special Programme for Victims of Apartheid in order to support the institute, and as such had to account to the EU for its expenditure. Trocaire made use of a domestic agency, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, to assist it in its liaison with the institute. An amount of R657 000 was transferred to the institute`s bank account in October 1988. The problem arose with the manner in which the spent money was accounted for. Essentially Trocaire claimed that there was a lack of accounting. The institute, and Motshekga in particular claimed that there was proper accounting. What is not in dispute is that the relationship between the two parties soured considerably during the last few months of 1989 and that Trocaire ceased all further funding.

The second phase to the background, opens during the middle of 1997 as the ANC found itself in the midst of a process of appointing a successor to the provincial chairperson, and premier, of Gauteng. On the 19th of July 1997 the Saturday Star published a report entitled "Race for Gauteng premier turning nasty" stating that allegations had begun circulating regarding Motshekga`s alleged inability to account for donor`s funding during his time as director of Nipilar. This was followed up by a report entitled "Motshekga scrutiny intensifies" in the same paper on the 9th of August 1997 The leadership contest was decided upon on the 28th of September 1997 when Motshekga was elected as provincial chair. On January 16 1998, and shortly before Motshekga was to be sworn in as premier of Gauteng, the Mail & Guardian newspaper published an article entitled "New Gauteng premier`s shady background." This was the article which set out the bulk of allegations that the commission was later tasked with investigating. The article focused on the alleged mismanagement of the money donated by the European Union, via Trocaire, to Nipilar at the time that Motshekga headed it. The Mail & Guardian followed this article up with another in which it was alleged that Motshekga was professionally and personally close to one Andre Thomashausen, who was alleged to have had links with the regime`s Military Intelligence as well as with Renamo. Following the publication of the above article, the Provincial Executive Committee of the Gauteng ANC decided upon the establishment of an internal provincial commission of enquiry; a decision which was however soon thereafter eclipsed by the NEC decision referred to above. Subsequent to the establishment of the commission, an article was published in the Mail & Guardian claiming that Motshekga informed for one or more of the apartheid state`s intelligence or security agencies.

  1. The Allegations

Area One : Misappropriation; Self-enrichment; Fraud

Certain witnesses who appeared before the commission made allegations to the effect that Motshekga used the Institute`s money for his personal gain. In particular, it was alleged that

  • He issued an institute cheque to the value of R23 000 to pay for a personal car; and that
  • He used the institution`s money to pay for "girlfriends."

The above allegations have remained just that. They have not been backed up at all. From the evidence presented to the commission, both orally and in writing, there is nothing to substantiate allegations of dishonest or fraudulent handling or misappropriation of donor`s money. This finding covers the one specific area that the Commission was tasked to investigate namely whether the Institute had fraudulently requested and used donors money for non-existent legal centres. The Commission`s position is confirmed by both Trocaire, the Irish funding organisation, and Chris McInerney, the project officer dealing with the account at the time, who have indicated that there has been no direct evidence available to substantiate the allegations of misappropriation. The point is best captured by the following extract from McInerney`s letter to the commission, dated 22 March 1998:

"I ... have never claimed to have had sufficient information or evidence to allege or prove that Mr Motshekga had misappropriated funders money. I repeat my earlier comment that we found it impossible to fully gather the information to either confirm or eliminate our concerns about the projects action."

That there were concerns about the way in which the money was spent is clear. Despite efforts by Trocaire to investigate the concerns, which efforts included a personal mission to South Africa by the Trocaire account officer, no evidence proving dishonest behaviour by Motshekga was ever unearthed. Ten years down the line, the commission finds itself in the same position. It therefore finds that no concrete evidence substantiating the allegations of misappropriation, fraud or self-enrichment was placed before it.

Area Two : Management Skills and Financial Accountability

Broadly speaking, financial accountability, planning and punctuality are all elements of management. Whether or not Motshekga practised principles of proper management is evaluated on basis of the evidence presented by particularly ex-employees of the institute, trustees and donors. The sum total of the evidence of witnesses, excluding that of Motshekga himself, paints the following picture:

  • Motshekga performed his duties as director in a most disorganised and haphazard manner.
  • Motshekga was over-extended and over-committed and had not applied sufficient attention to the running and management of the institute.
  • There were no regular staff meetings.
  • Whilst the institute was confronted with challenges of growth of centres, there was no hands on leadership.
  • Motshekga listened but did not follow up on advice.
  • Motshekga was never punctual for his appointments, and had on more than one occasion simply missed critical meetings.

Having considered all the evidence the commission is left with the perception that the above picture is indeed an accurate reflection of the situation at the time.

The following question then is whether Motshekga knew the extent of his tasks and the accountability that was inherent thereto. What was Motshekga`s exact responsibility, and his understanding thereof? Did his position as director imply that he was also in charge of operations at the institute?

The commission found that Motshekga conceived of and founded the institute. For all intents and purposes it was Mathole Motshekga`s institute. Whilst he might not exactly have foreseen the magnitude and the pace of growth of the institute, he was well aware that he had to set up management systems and controls. He was aware that he had to engage staff members, and that the implementation of his vision required hands-on operational management. He suggested to the board the appointment of a reputable firm of auditors, Coopers and Lybrand, and he appointed qualified attorneys, paralegals and managers. The commission finds therefore that Motshekga knew and understood the extent and nature of his tasks, and that these included clear and in-indisputable hands-on operational responsibilities.

Many of the problems experienced were attributable to his hands-off management style. Motshekga was a full time lecturer at UNISA at the time. After his involvement with the Democratic Lawyers Congress he served as vice-president of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel.) Coupled with the extremely repressive political atmosphere of the time, there was no way in which he could have brought cohesion in dealing with the type of problems which beset the institute. His regular unavailability to the staff created a negative atmosphere within which rumours were hatched and spread. The fact that some staff members were illegally taking payment from clients can partly be ascribed to Motshekga`s absentee management style. Both oral and documentary evidence presented indicated that Motshekga missed the opportunity to have fully utilised the skills and talents vested in people around him, and that he appointed organisationally weak and inappropriate people to important management and decision making positions.

One common theme running through a lot of the evidence presented was the lack of punctuality on Motshekga`s side. The commission is not oblivious to the extraordinary circumstances of the time. Activists were generally over-committed and seen in context of police harassment and turbulent conditions of the time, it could be said that his lack of punctuality was understandable. However the evidence was just too consistent and too targeted for the commission to excuse it.

Though Motshekga very clearly is a fillip of creative ideas, many of these were therefore unfortunately never implemented because of the above management problems.

As far as accounting for international funding is concerned, Trocaire stated in correspondence to the commission that:

"The problem concerned the fact that Ipilar [later known as Nipilar] did not present narrative reports on the implementation of the project ... It was not possible for Trocaire to verify that these activities and plans were implemented. Satisfactory interim financial reports were not provided, and draft audited accounts only covered the period up to February 1989."

The dispute between Nipilar and Trocaire is captured in the above statement. On the one hand Trocaire has claimed, and consistently so, that an amount in excess of R650 000 was not properly accounted for. On the other hand stands Motshekga who claims that the accounts were supposed to have been submitted at the end of the financial year. Moreover Motshekga testified that the agreement on how the money would be accounted for had been arranged with another Trocaire employee, and not with Chris McInerney, who took over the Nipilar account and who was in charge of it at the time of the dispute.

Motshekga`s answers with regard to financial accounting only served to indicate the shortcomings in his understanding of the subject. Though not guilty of misappropriation, and having sympathy for the difficulties faced by the institute at the time, the commission nevertheless finds that the manner in which the institute as headed by Motshekga accounted for the spending of the Trocaire donor funds, was flawed and insufficient. In this regard the commission took note of Trocaire`s statement that "this was one of 25 projects funded by Trocaire during 1988 in South Africa and it was the only one in which problems of this nature arose."

Again, though no evidence proving misappropriation with regards to the issuing of the R23 000 cheque for vehicle payment was produced, the commission finds that Motshekga at the very least committed a serious error of judgement. The absence of a board resolution authorising the purchase by the institute of Motshekga`s vehicle should under the circumstances have served as enough reason for Motshekga not to enter into the transaction.

In concluding this section, it needs to be stressed that the commission took note of the fact that the political turbulence of the 1980s and the concomitant need not to expose information to the regime, made it exceedingly difficult for most progressive grass-roots organisations and NGOs to apply and adhere strictly to generally accepted rules of accounting in their bookkeeping. The commission appreciated the fact that Nipilar operated under these same conditions.

Area 3 : Autocratic management

There is no evidence that Motshekga conducted himself in a dictatorial manner. However his management style left much to be desired, amongst others because it was over-centralised and relied too much on Motshekga himself attending to specific matters. In the context of his lack of availability, and his problems with reliability and punctuality this was an untenable situation. Though Motshekga contended that he always acted with the consent of the Board of Trustees, there is evidence by ex-employees that the board was in fact "a board in name only". The fact that two senior board members of the time testified before the commission that they knew nothing of the R23 000 transaction, served to confirm the point of view that the board was not active and therefore did not perform its own duties in terms of broad oversight.

Area 4: Nepotism

Evidence was presented before the Commission that Motshekga employed one Johanna Mohale, his girlfriend with whom he had a child. It was furthermore alleged that his own brother Ruben also worked for the institute. The Commission accepted Motshekga`s version that the relationship between himself and Johanna Mohale developed when they were already working together and that he did not employ her as a result of their relationship. As regards Motshekga`s brother`s association with the institute, the commission found no evidence proving that he received remuneration for whatever his services to the institute might have been.

Area 5: Contact with persons detrimental to the ANC

The above subject deals in the first instance with Motshekga`s association with an alleged supporter of RENAMO, Andre Thomashausen, who was a former colleague of Motshekga at the University of South Africa. Whilst Thomashausen admitted to the commission his close relationship with the top leadership of RENAMO, he claimed that he never discussed such with Motshekga. "At some stage I think that he did become aware of it; although we never had discussion." Despite his intimate collaboration with Renamo, Thomashausen denied having worked for the regime`s military intelligence structures. Though they were close colleagues, and though it was admitted that they conducted political discussions, Motshekga denied knowledge of Thomashausen`s political activities. He asserts that he would have discontinued the relationship had he known of these activities. The finding of the commission is that the relationship between Motshekga and Thomashausen did indeed go beyond the demands of academia. By all accounts they appear to be rather close personal acquaintances. It appears furthermore that it was a relation of mutual benefit and dependency that developed between the two. Motshekga was dependent on Thomashausen`s support for a position at the university, whilst Thomashausen in return clearly benefited from Motshekga`s political insight into and connections with the democratic movement.

In determining whether his relationship with Thomashausen had negative or detrimental impact on the ANC it needs to be stated that most people did not know of the relationship until the recent publication in the press.

To the extent that it was unknown, the relationship could not have been historically detrimental to the image of the ANC or the democratic movement generally. Apart from damage to the ANC`s image, the relationship could however have caused other kinds of strategic damage or detriment to the movement. Insufficient facts were presented to the commission to address this particular point. The commission however wishes to state unequivocally that any ongoing relationship with politically dubious personalities carrying shady histories would certainly serve to fuel rumours around Motshekga, which in turn could be very damaging to the name and credibility of the ANC.

Apart from the Thomashausen connection, the commission probed the veracity of allegations that Motshekga informed for one or more of the apartheid state`s intelligence or security agencies. However, operatives who have moved in the intelligence arena rarely speak out in the open. This is particularly true for the sinister intelligence under world created by the apartheid state. The limited evidence placed before this commission in this regard accordingly does not substantiate the allegation.

  1. Specific Recommendations:
  1. The Commission recommends that Motshekga be given concrete and extensive assistance by the ANC to strengthen the general management of his office, in particular as far as his duties as premier of the province is concerned. His office should be structured in such a manner as to ensure the delegation of power, and the focusing by Motshekga on policy matters and the monitoring of the implementation thereof. To effect the above, the commission recommends the deployment by the ANC of highly skilled and disciplined personnel to Motshekga`s office to assist particularly as far as effective and efficient time management is concerned.

The commission however wishes to commend the way in which Motshekga`s security guards kept on reminding him of his next appointment whilst he was testifying before the commission. If this is to be the norm in his office, the image of him not respecting time will surely disappear.

  1. Regarding financial accountability, the commission makes no concrete recommendation other than to mention that it will be in Motshekga`s own interest to acquire a general understanding of financial management skills.
  2. As far as his relationship with Thomashausen is concerned, the Commission recommends that Motshekga terminate forthwith all political, governmental and personal aspects of this relationship.
  1. General Recommendations

Apart from the recommendations regarding Motshekga specifically, the commission believes it appropriate to take some distance on the specific allegations and to focus on the current political and historical context. Based upon the following observations, flow a couple of concrete recommendations.

The process of appointing a new leader for the ANC in Gauteng permeated much of the evidence placed before the commission. Based on this, the commission is in a position to conclude that:

  • Rumours around Motshekga`s alleged misdemeanour have been circulating for many years;
  • The leadership race, or bloody battle to be more precise, acted as catalyst for these rumours to be lifted to the political surface and the broader public`s attention.
  • Generally it were elements within the ANC opposed to Motshekga`s ascension to the chairperson-ship, that were pro-actively leaking information and misinformation to the press.

The nature of the leadership race has not done the ANC proud. To the contrary; the amount of political bloodletting, be it in public, in the pages of the press, or behind closed doors that accompanied the leadership race has not only been damaging to the internal fibre of the ANC, it has been most embarrassing. The divisive caucusing that characterised all sides in the leadership battle, brought dishonour to a political movement that throughout its eighty six years of existence has developed and fine-tuned sophisticated and nuanced collective processes of agreeing on the appointment of party leadership.

Instead of ignoring this damage and embarrassment, the ANC nationally should use the events surrounding Motshekga and the leadership race as an opportunity to reflect on itself, including the character of the ANC, the nature of political leadership as well as the nature of the leadership contestations within the movement. As one witness stated before the Commission: "It is not Motshekga who is in the dock. It is the ANC itself ."

Flowing from this line of thought, it is the Commission`s considered opinion that the ANC as an organisation needs to grant further political attention to re-positioning itself within, and adapting to, the new post-1994 environment. President Mandela made a valuable contribution to this process when at Mafikeng, in his President`s Report, he spoke about the emergence of careerism within our ranks and the fact that "many among our members see their membership of the ANC as a means to advance their personal ambitions to attain positions of power and access to resources for their own individual gratification."

As far as the Commission is concerned, this careerism is often accompanied by a creeping provincialism. It is a sentiment manifested by some comrades within provincial structures believing that they, and they alone have the right to determine leadership within provincial structures. As such, provincial leadership battles become akin to internal family squabbles, in which any intervention from the national movement is regarded as undue, top-down and heavy handed interference. It is a sentiment which pre-supposes that provinces are autonomous from national government, and that provincial ANC structures are autonomous from the ANC nationally. This sentiment is as factually misguided as it is politically dangerous. South Africa is not a federation, nor is the ANC a federal party.

The Commission has no qualms in stating that unless the ANC promptly and decisively deals with the phenomena of careerism and provincialism within its ranks, a heavy price is to be paid. The longer these phenomena are not confronted, the deeper they will root themselves, and the higher the political costs will be when eventually cutting them out. The reconstruction and development of this country, and the effective combating of poverty, racism and tribalism, demands amongst others the continuation and preservation of a single and a strong democratic political organisation; an organisation in which the notion of collective leadership is respected, one in which critical and robust debate is encouraged but also one in which decisions can ultimately be taken and implemented, as a unified collective. As the movement took decisive steps to deal with the dangers and pitfalls of the environment when it was banned, so it needs to continue to protect its integrity and character against the different dangers and challenges presented by the new environment.

In light of the above, the Commission therefore makes the following recommendations to the national leadership of the ANC:

A. Appointment of Leadership

ANC members serving in provincial government, should be seen as serving the people of South Africa through the Office of the President of the ANC. Regarding ANC premiers, the commission believes that they need to be appointed by national leadership, and in particular the president of the ANC. Whereas ANC MECs are appointed by the premier, they need to serve with the express approval of the ANC`s national leadership.

The Commission is of the opinion that the thrust of this recommendation dovetails with a resolution on the appropriate deployment of cadres taken at the 50th Conference held recently in Mafikeng. The resolution commits the ANC to the further development of a strategic deployment strategy, and to the establishment of deployment committees, amongst other by the NEC.

The Commission therefore concretely recommends:

  • That the NEC Deployment Committee be established forthwith, and that it be chaired by the ANC president;
  • That the NEC Deployment Committee appoint ANC premiers;
  • That the appointment of ANC MECs be approved by the NEC Deployment Committee;
  • That the ANC constitution be amended at the next possible opportunity to enshrine the tasks and functioning of this committee; and
  • That a policy process be embarked upon to confirm a clear position regarding the issue whether the ANC provincial chair in an ANC controlled province should automatically be premier; and that this issue be considered as soon as possible as opposed to in the cauldron of elections fever.

B. Skills training

The commission wishes to bring to the attention of the leadership of the ANC that Motshekga`s lack of management skills is a problem of magnitude to be found across the entire spectrum of our first generation politicians. As such it should be regarded as the ANC`s general problem. When electing people to office, at any level, our people have (correctly) not used management skills as a measuring standard, but rather the track record and the commitment and the trust they have in the person. It is the individual him or herself that should be aware of their shortcomings so that he or she can call for assistance. The challenge to the ANC is to ensure that not only is the shortcomings brought to the attention of the individual, but that s/he is actually assisted to acquire the required skills.

The Commission recommends that leaders of the ANC at every level have to undergo a certain programme that will ensure that they do acquire a general understanding of crucial management issues. The programme should not be an academic programme, but should be designed in such a way that it equips a political head with a general understanding required to play a politically supervisory role. Besides this, the Commission can strongly recommend that the programmes of political education be deepened within the movement, and that these programmes begin to grapple seriously with the concrete challenges and demands of occupying a political decision making position at the turn of the century, in a developing country such as ours.

C. Discipline

The leaking of information to the press allowed the media to play an inordinate role in the determination of political leadership. Such was the extent of the undisciplined and divisive behaviour during the Gauteng leadership race that the Commission was left with the impression that the code of conduct could perhaps have been dusted off and put to use in the wake thereof. The nature of the recent leadership battles in provinces such as the Free State and the Northern Province should have instructed national leadership to tighten up the procedures of appointing provincial leadership. Whilst the Commission believes that the name of the movement has certainly been brought into disrepute during the course of the Gauteng leadership race, it does not recommend that any one be prosecuted. Under the circumstances it is probably wise for the ANC to put this unhappy episode behind it, and to look forward.

The Commission however has no hesitation in recommending that any future behaviour resembling what was seen in Gauteng recently be punished swiftly and decisively. In addition the Commission recommends the stricter application of the code of conduct for leaders of the ANC. Leadership should lead by example; and errant behaviour from a leader should be considered in a more serious light than an ordinary member.

  1. Conclusion:

Apart from recommending the full publication of this report, the commission concludes by urging for the matters dealt with in this report, to now be put to rest. The events of those days are over, and the mistakes that were made now belong to history. What is much more important is to understand the mistakes that were made, and to ensure that they don`t get repeated again. In addition, it needs to be stated in unequivocal terms to Motshekga himself, that a lot depends on his own conduct. It is most probably the most important variable in determining whether the rumours will cease or whether they will simmer and flare up. The commissioners wish to thank those who contributed to the functioning of the commission. Particular gratitude need to be expressed to the witnesses, who gave their evidence, time and attention, and who did so voluntarily.

Signed on 24 April 1998 in Johannesburg.

George Negota
Gertrude Shope
Isaac Makopo