Mike Mabuyakhulu. Picture: SOWETAN
Mike Mabuyakhulu. Picture: SOWETAN

The political future of the KwaZulu-Natal ANC’s deputy leader Mike Mabuyakhulu, who was being touted as a possible premier candidate in the province, is in the balance as pressure relating to a graft case against him builds. 

Mabuyakhulu, along with former premier Senzo Mchunu, were at the forefront of Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign ahead of the ANC’s national elective conference in December 2017. Ramaphosa took over the leadership of the ANC and promised to clean up the government and the party.

Mabuyakhulu’s legal woes could put a spanner in the works of the president’s anti-graft efforts.

He has served as MEC in different portfolios since 1999 and has been touted as possible premier of the province after the widely expected retirement of premier Willies Mchunu due to ill health.

On Thursday morning the Asset Forfeiture Unit swooped on Mabuyakhulu and seven co-accused in his corruption case, attaching their property and cars.

Mabuyakhulu and his co-accused have made several appearances in Durban’s commercial crime court facing charges of money laundering and corruption relating to R28m allegedly paid for the North Sea Jazz Festival in Durban in 2012. The festival never took place. 

The state alleges that the accused shared the money earmarked for the concert among themselves.

Prior to the Thursday’s raid, the National Prosecuting Authority had applied for an interim court order to “quarantine their assets until the finalisation of the matter”.

The trial against Mabuyakhulu and his co-accused is scheduled to resume in February. He is out on R500,000 bail.

It is not the first time Mabuyakhulu has faced fraud and corruption charges. In the so-called “amigos” case, which started in 2010, he and 22 others faced charges of racketeering, fraud and corruption for allegedly soliciting a R1m bribe for the ANC from Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi, who provided water purification units to the KwaZulu-Natal health department at a cost of R144m. These charges were controversially dropped in 2012 by KwaZulu-Natal’s then acting director of public prosecutions, Moipone Noko.

Mabuyakhulu was elected as the ANC KwaZulu-Natal deputy chair at a provincial elective conference in 2018, after cutting a deal with the Sihle Zikalala faction. Zikhalala, a well-known supporter of former president Jacob Zuma, is the province’s ANC chair.

Benedict Xolani Dube, a political analyst with the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, said Mabuyakhulu’s political career is unlikely to survive the current scandal.

“I think his fate has been signed and sealed. What is most sad or unfortunate for him is that he was used by the Zuma camp of the ANC in KZN to mollify and create an impression of fake ‘unity’, knowing very well that his legal troubles would soon catch up with him.

“When he took the opportunity to run as a deputy chair in the so-called unity slate, he thought he was playing his own game and that the legal troubles he was facing would somehow be ‘negotiated’ and he would survive,” Dube said.

“Now he has no choice but to resign from the position of deputy chairperson of the province to concentrate on clearing his name. The ANC cannot afford to have someone who is facing such serious charges playing a leading role in an election year,” Dube said.