A LIMPOPO lobby group, whose members were involved in a bloody battle with EFF members in Polokwane this week, has been accused of using the plight of unemployed youths and emerging businessmen to fight Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng for political reasons.
According to EFF Limpopo secretary Jossey Buthane and some ANC sources, the Radical Economic Transformation Forum (RETF) is using the plight of unemployed youths and emerging businessmen to weaken Nkadimeng ahead of the Peter Mokaba ANC regional conference due to be held next month.
They claim the group, whose leaders include ANC activist Thabo Mabotja, is using economic freedom as a ploy to campaign for Capricorn District Municipal mayor John Mpe for the position of regional chairperson. Other RETF leaders include Johz Mamabolo and Agi Makhura.
Mpe and Nkadimeng are contenders for the party’s top job in Peter Mokaba, the commercial hub of Limpopo which includes the City of Polokwane.
Members of RETF have been waging a disruption campaign in recent weeks against targeted departments, state-owned companies and politicians over tenders.
They accuse them of breaching the government’s procurement policies which require that 30% of the contracts be ring-fenced for local contractors.
The group’s members this week clashed with EFF members at a hotel in Polokwane, where the lobby group was holding a meeting with construction company Basil Read.
Buthane and his fellow comrades allegedly assaulted them with sticks and pick handles, resulting in businessman Tebogo Rasebotsa and councillor Papas Maakamedi being hospitalised with serious body injuries.
In a statement, EFF accused RETF of “harassing” local business people “in the name of unlocking business opportunities”.
“The Economic Freedom Fighters is fully aware that Radical Economic Transformation Forum is being used to settle political scores in Capricorn region and ANC Limpopo. This is an organisation formed and funded by John Makoro Mpe.”
Speaking to African Times on Tuesday night, Buthane reiterated his claim that Mpe and others were using RETF to fight their political battles ahead of the ruling party’s elective conferences.
He says it is strange that the pressure group has targeted only Polokwane projects and council sittings for disruption.
“Remember when those things of Supra came, one of them even said, ‘one mayor in Capricorn will soon be like Supra Mahumapelo’. So, they wanted to create unrest in Polokwane so that Thembi is seen as a person who is not delivering. There is stampede, there is noise around her name and there is a decision to remove her,” Buthane says.
“But that is not a genuine fight for economic emancipation. That’s a political battle. It must not be waged in the name of economic transformation. Those of us who are for this cause, it angers us. Why do you say you want black business people to be empowered and you go to Zone 2, you go to Luthuli, you close projects of people who are Polokwane based, who are black and you even know them?”
Buthane claims some RETF members have been trying to extort money from business people.
“There is hypocrisy there. That’s why we saw it fit to defend black business people who are locally based. They then go to them and say, ‘give us money we will defend you’. What’s genuine about that?”
He declined to comment on allegations that he assaulted RETF members with pick handles, saying the matter is now a police matter.
An ANC source concurred: “This has nothing to do with tenders. It is political. I mean how do you disrupt the tenders of Thembi’s municipality and leave Mpe’s? How do you stop contractors without even doing an audit an audit on whether there are sub-contractors? They are just trying to keep Thembi busy so that she does not campaign ahead of the conference.”
Mabotja confirmed that he supports Mpe but denies using RETF to fight Nkadimeng for political reasons.
He says the forum was launched in reaction to the feeding scheme tender irregularities, long before the ANC national executive committee (NEC) signed off on the regional conference.
“If this forum was formed to fight Thembi why are EFF members part of it?” Mabotja asked.
“The allegation that we are doing this thing because we want to dent Thembi’s image is not true. We don’t support Thembi to be chairperson of the region, that’s not a secret and is not a new thing. But RETF has nothing to do with politics.”
He denies that Mpe and other politicians are funding RETF. Mabotja says Buthane is jealous of the forum because “we are occupying the space” EFF used to occupy. Mpe dismissed claims that he using RETF to fight his political battles as a figment of Buthane’s imagination.
“I know nothing about this organisation,” Mpe insists.
“To try and put me into the whole thing, I think they are trying to push for their candidate. It’s funny that EFF has got its own candidate within the ANC. But also, what is it that they are protecting because it looks like they are prepared to kill anybody in the protection of a particular individual within another party. They just came from their regional conference and they never heard anybody in the ANC saying anything about it.”
He says claims against him are not emanating from EFF but from Buthane as part of his personal crusade.
“I think it is Jossey himself as an individual hiring poor people who are unemployed, hungry to go and settle whatever scores he has with other people. Why are they trying to bring me [in]; is it because these people did not visit CDM offices? These people phoned my office when I was in Bloemfontein last week saying they wanted to see me on Monday,” Mpe said.
He says EFF cannot determine his political future.
“The EFF cannot make us win or lose in that conference. It is branches of the ANC, if it is all about the organisation. That is why I doubt that an organisation can go and fight the internal fight of another organisation. Jossey is acting on his own pushing his personal and business agenda.”
Nkadimeng could not be reached for comment as her phone rang unanswered.
Among others, RETF members have done the following:
- Disrupted a tender briefing session of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs at Bolivia Lodge;
- Stormed the offices of some black business owners who are doing business with the City of Polokwane;
- Marched and staged pickets against the Limpopo Education Department over its R2.2 billion feeding scheme contracts;
- Called on its members to target the Department of Health and Roads Agency Limpopo until they are given contracts.
- The City of Polokwane interdicted RETF members from attending its public meetings.