Cyril Ramaphosa’s deputy David Mabuza doesn’t really have the kind of hungry look that worried Julius Caesar about his rival Cassius in the Shakespearean classics.
Neither does he look dangerous or noble. At best, he resembles an old-fashioned rural school teacher who doubles up as a struggling taxi owner after school hours.
Well, before entering the cut throat world of politics, Mabuza worked as a school teacher specialising in mathematics, always solving for the elusive x and toying with theorems and formulae. He is also reputed to be a good chess player.
For years he has been dogged by a reputation – ruthless, calculating, cunning and plotting player.
This might be the reason Ramaphosa, like Caesar, should be worried about the intentions of his number two who postponed his swearing in as MP this week.
Worried about the men around his circle, Ceasar confides in his right-hand man Mark Antony about Cassius.
“Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous,” Caesar retorts in the Shakespearian classic Julius Caesar.
Antony reaches out to Caesar to offer some reassurance.
“Fear him not, Caesar. He’s not dangerous. He is a noble Roman and well given,” he says.
Ramaphosa takes his oath of office as president in Pretoria on Saturday morning with the issue of his deputy hanging.
It is not clear if Mabuza was pushed to suspend his swearing in as MP on Wednesday or if the decision is one of his calculated strategic moves to prepare for what critics believe is his eye on the ANC presidency in 2022.
Ramaphosa’s office announced just hours before the swearing in ceremony was to get underway in Parliament that Mabuza had made a request “to postpone his swearing in as a Member of Parliament”.
Mabuza allegedly “made the request in light of a report by the ANC Integrity Commission in which he is alleged to have prejudiced the integrity of the ANC and brought the organisation into disrepute”.
The ANC’s integrity commission said through its chairperson George Mashamba that it will be meeting Mabuza next Wednesday. He will be afforded an opportunity to provide an explanation on the allegations levelled against him, the commission said.
Two high profile ANC members Nomvula Mokonyane and Malusi Gigaba were also notable absentees during Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony.
The pair who were also flagged by the commission have withdrawn their availability for Parliament, citing different reasons.
So, what is so extraordinary about Mabuza postponing his swearing in and subjecting himself before the commission? Accountability and politicians have proven to be sworn enemies in SA.
Politicians in public office would rather be dragged kicking and screaming to account for their alleged misdeeds rather than voluntarily subject themselves to scrutiny.
What’s even puzzling about the timing of Mabuza’s decision to submit to the commission is that he has for years, been dogged by serious allegations of corruption, pilfering state coffers to build his fund his ascendancy to power.
He has been the subject of allegations of indirect involvement in mysterious murders of politicians in Mpumalanga, but to be fair to him, Mabuza has never been charged or put on trial to clear his name.
But in the cut-throat world of politics such processes, especially against such powerful figures, do not unfold as easily as it’s written in the statutes.
In his book titled Eerie Assignment – A journalist’s nightmare in Mpumalanga, journalist Sizwe sama Yende paints a disturbing image of the man who was Premier of Mpumalanga.
He describes Mabuza’s tenure as premier of Mpumalanga and chairperson of the ANC as “topsy-turvy and laced with scandals and turmoil: political killings, bribery, greed, corruption and concerted efforts to manipulate the media”.
At one point Yende, who was based in Nelspruit as City Press bureau chief, opened a case with the police after Mabuza’s spokesperson Mabutho Sithole offered him a cash bribe.
This was so he could drop an investigation he was doing into a R200-million tender in which Mabuza was implicated in corruption.
“…a cohort of journalists were on the side of DD Mabuza’s government and were helping to douse the flames as he evaded scandal after scandal,” Yende writes in the book.
Yende says in a brief incidental meeting afterwards Mabuza put the blame on Sithole saying “he was trying to protect me”.
He goes on further to say “Mabuza did not associate himself with Sithole’s actions, as he has not with all other incidents when allies and supporters did things in his name”.
This is perhaps one of the traits that should have those in ANC power circles worried about the man who turned the party’s 2017 elective conference on its head when he switched allegiance to Ramaphosa at the 11th hour – leaving his ally Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the lurch.
This of course paved the way for him, as someone in charge of the ANC’s second biggest province by members to ascend the deputy presidency.
If anyone had predicted before that conference that Mabuza would be second-in-command of the continent’s oldest liberation movement they would have been justifiably dismissed as insane.
Assuming that Mabuza indeed voluntarily postponed his swearing in to allow himself to be taken through party processes, he will gain moral ground as a disciplined and dedicated cadre should he be cleared by the integrity commission.
It would be difficult for Ramaphosa and the ANC to justify a decision to recall him as the country’s deputy president. And in the eyes, hearts and minds of members of the party whose unity continues to stand on shaky ground Mabuza would appear as a likely candidate to assume the party’s presidency in 2022.
But now what does Ramaphosa, who is said to be seeking a second term as party president, do with Mabuza regardless of the commission’s decision? Does he banish him to Luthuli House where he will have enough time to plot his next move or relegate him to the parliamentary benches as an ordinary MP?
Either way, perhaps it’s time SA prepared itself for the possibility of a DD Mabuza presidency in the near future.