“You should have asked me I would have told you, I knew about this judgement yesterday,” bragged Mbombela executive mayor outside the Mpumalanga high court.
While celebrating his faction’s court victory, the executive mayor, Sibusiso Mathonsi made the startling statement in front of journalists who were covering the event.
African National Congress member, Ronnie Malumane and others had instituted court action to dissolve his organisation’s provincial executive committee and Bohlabela region.
Judge Brian Mashile dismissed the case on the grounds of late application.
Mathonsi could not have chosen the worst time to make the controversial statement.
Already there were unsubstantiated allegations that some in the respondents’ camp had secret meetings with judge Mashile.
Mathonsi’s statement put a spanner in ANC spokesperson, Sasekani Manzini’s public relations wheel, as journalists asked her to explain Mathonsi’s statement.
“Maybe you should have asked the executive mayor, if you have heard him, because all of us are here, and when we are here we are waiting for the judgement. The only time we got to know about the judgement was when the judge pronounced it in court,” said Manzini.
But Mathonsi did not just make a wild statement, he was in fact speaking to Manzini directly without realising that among the ANC crowds, were a contingent of journalists.
Manzini’s attempt to make him aware of the journalists’ presence came rather late.
“Are you not worried that a person of that stature makes such a statement?” probed another journalist.
“When I looked at him, he was just joking. I did not see anything serious, unless you are seeing something serious. So, you cannot be serious on anything, people talk about anything. Maybe when he was saying he knew, because we knew that there’s no case, because what they were alleging, we knew that this case is going to be dismissed,” said a visibly unsettled Manzini.
Mathonsi is no ordinary person, he holds a position of responsibility. He is the first citizen of the provincial capital, Mbombela and a deputy regional chairperson of the ANC. No one expected him to speak out of turn.
Spokesperson for the applicants, William Nkatha, said he was unaware of the alleged meeting between the judge and the defendants.
“We are not aware of such, if such thing has happened, it’s unfortunate that the judge should meet the respondents privately and deal with the issue of the case. But where we are standing, we believe that the judge is sober. He has taken a decision according to the facts that we have presented before him, however, indeed we are going to challenge this judgement, we are going to appeal,” said Nkatha.
This is not the first time that an ANC leader makes a controversial statement outside the high court.
Last month, provincial acting chairperson Mandla Ndlovu warned that courts will not decide for the ANC.
“Whether there is any judgement, there is no judgement that is going to decide what the ANC is going to do. Judgement that we are going to get from any court room, as an organisation, we will go back to our offices and sit down and implement our own decision,” said Ndlovu outside the same court.
The judiciary had not responded at the time of publishing.
[Later versions will include the response from the judiciary]