A pyramid scheme is an illegal form of investing money. It is based on recruiting investors. Those who join early are usually the ones who benefit.
The more investors join, the more the older members benefit until it reaches a saturation point. The new members who are also expecting to benefit end up losing their investments.
That’s when trouble starts and inevitably the founder must just run away.
In 2008, Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, David Mabuza, aka “DD” started a political pyramid scheme called “The Hurricane”.
He recruited the South African Communist Party (SACP), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) in the province.
Like all pyramid schemes, only a few at the top started benefiting. He became ANC provincial chairperson and Mpumalanga premier. He co-opted COSATU’s Norman Mokoena – awarding him with an MEC position, and government tenders started flowing for SANCO’s Raymond Makamo.
To survive, however, he had to do drastic things, such as sidelining the SACP and long-serving members of the ANC. He literally manufactured his own organisation – a new ANC that had no respect for principles and its own constitution.
He mastered his game such that this new ANC was able to give him three terms as the provincial chairperson and two terms as premier of Mpumalanga province. The first person to achieve this feat in the province, giving him almost ten years at the helm.
Mabuza never disputed a claim by former ANCYL leader, James Nkambule that he bought the premiership from former president Jacob Zuma by paying for the former president’s traditional wedding in 2008.
In 2014, Mabuza surprised everyone when he claimed that Mathews Phosa had authored a report that he was an apartheid era spy.
The report, which Mabuza claimed Phosa had authored it in 2014, had already been in circulation within the media circles at least as early as 2012.
Mabuza used this as an excuse to justify the attack on the SACP Joe Slovo memorial lecture at Kanyamazane which Phosa and SACP provincial secretary, Bonakele Majuba were billed to address.
He was not involved in the attack, however, some ANC leaders aligned to him, including members of the legislature, councillors, ANC REC members participated in the violent attack. The ANC commissioned an investigation, but former ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, refused to release the report, claiming that, according to the SACP, it was embarrassing to the ANC.
Mabuza managed to ward off any challenge to his authority. First was his first deputy, Charles Makola, then followed Clifford Mkasi, the former provincial treasurer who was nominated to succeed him in 2012, then next to fall was David Dube, who was his deputy in the “early conference” of 2015.
The Cat, as he later became to be known, Mabuza almost died after he fell off the stage at Bushbuckridge during his birthday celebrations with school kids.
When he recuperated, he claimed that he had been poisoned, while those who were there confirmed that he had, in fact, fallen off a stage that did not have railings as required.
He accused Milpark hospital, where he had been hospitalised, of failing to detect the alleged poison. The hospital’s spokesperson, while he declined to comment due to “doctor-patient confidentiality”, but challenged Mabuza to report his claims to the relevant authorities.
In February 2016, Mabuza’s spokesperson failed to respond to a Ziwaphi media enquiry where we sought to know if he had reported the hospital’s failure to detect the alleged poison or the alleged attempted murder due to the poisoning.
He promised to secure an appointment with Ziwaphi, which he did. When it was Ziwaphi’s turn to interview Mabuza, he burst into anger and accused another journalist of abusing him.
Ever since, the questions were never responded to.
To this date, the official version of the cause of Mabuza’s illness is not that he injured himself when he fell off the stage, but that he had been poisoned.
Mabuza has often been accused of using money to buy his way up the ANC ladder.
In an interview in the Mail and Guardian in 2017, ANCYL president, Collen Maine said that they loved Mabuza because he was providing them with financial assistance.
“He sends volunteers to ANC events and he assists the ANC with [financial] resources. He is always assisting. He contributed a lot, even during the ANC Siyanqoba rally in North West. He appeals to many because he always assists,” said Maine.
Also former of the North West province premier, Supra Mahumapelo, confirmed in the same article that Mabuza was popular because of money.
“No event of the ANC passes without him contributing,” said Mahumapelo.
Thus, it came as no surprise when Mabuza became the deputy president of the ANC. What has yet to be established is where does Mabuza get all the money that he uses to “assist” all other provinces because all premiers earn the same salary.
What is known, however, is that municipalities, such as Mbombela remain bankrupt and that provincial government departments are unable to fill vacant posts because the province has declared a moratorium on the filling of vacant posts.
Mabuza fancies himself as a strategist who even plays the chess game against himself. Recently, however, when a clever journalist asked him, how he plays against himself, he said in fact he was playing a computerised chess game.
He also prides himself as someone who has never lost any election that he has contested in the ANC, yet in 2001 he was humiliated by former trade unionist, William Lubisi for the position of deputy provincial secretary during a provincial conference held at Elijah Mango college of education.
Mabuza has proven beyond doubt that he is a strategist who has successfully defeated his own comrades within the ANC. However, he has yet to prove himself against the opposition parties.
Last month, the ANC suspended Mabuza’s henchman, Ngrayi Ngwenya, after he allegedly assaulted acting provincial secretary, Lindiwe Ntshalintshali.
Secretary-General of the ANC, Ace Magashule, did not hesitate to suspend Ngwenya following the alleged assault, and Ngwenya has been the mastermind behind Mabuza’s success.
His region had one of the highest number of bogus ANC branches, and meetings in this part of the province branches do not have to reach a quorum to take decisions, and that is if branch general meetings are ever called.
Magashule is introducing a new membership system that would be able, in real-time, to determine if a member is present at a BGM or not.
Could the ANC NEC decision to suspend Ngwenya, be the straw that will break the camel’s back?
The man who calls himself The Cat, like the initiator of a pyramid scheme, has successfully played his game, but it was a game that he could not play for too long. He has left the provincial politics, or has he?
Now it’s up to those who helped elevate him to sustain the scheme, but will they