ANC vs ANC — Courts used to settle political scores.

Mpumalanga Agriculture, Land Administration and Environmental Affairs MEC, Mandla Msibi has vowed to name and shame all ANC politicians who spread the allegations that he was involved in vigilante acts and had brutally assaulted people. He believes his opponents are using the courts to settle political scores.

Msibi (45) said this after he was acquitted of another assault charge in the Nelspruit Regional Court, leaving him facing only one of 10 attempted murder, assault, theft and malicious damage to property charges that were laid against him more than two years ago.

He has been attending court since 2018 to answer to allegations of conducting a reign of terror in his political stronghold of Pienaar near Mbombela, where he lives. Msisbi added that he knows all of those who are behind this.

“They’re in the ANC provincial executive committee [PEC]. I work with them. I’ll wait until the local government elections pass and then I’ll name them [publicly],” said Msibi.

He has long suspected that all the charges against him were trumped up and politically motivated – an argument his lawyer, Coert Jordaan, has repeatedly raised in court.

A rising star in Mpumalanga politics, Msibi would have been affected by the ANC’s step-aside policy had it been implemented before he had cleared himself on many of the charges. His name is on the provincial list submitted to Luthuli House.

Rocky Mcolisi Sithole (34), who accused Msibi and three other men of attempted murder in 2017, wrote an affidavit on May 26 to the National Prosecuting Authority, withdrawing the allegations against the MEC. Sithole said he did not see the people who confronted him at his chicken braai business, bludgeoned him with pick handles and butchered him with machetes. The assault left him with a broken right leg and elbow, as well as a dysfunctional middle finger.

“I am a victim of the attempted murder case 153/08/2017. I have decided not to proceed with this case because I have sat down with my family and looked into this matter and we have agreed that I must drop all the charges because I have not seen anyone assaulting me during the incident and I don’t recall anything about that day. I made this decision without any fear or favour. So I request the court to drop or withdraw the charges,” Sithole.

The court duly acquitted Msibi as a result of this withdrawal affidavit. Jordaan told the court that he had gone through Sithole’s evidence and found 30 contradictions. He maintained that the court was being used for political battles. In most of the cases against Msibi, he said, City of Mbombela councillor Themba Bulunga was either a complainant or a witness.

“Bulunga contradicted himself all the time in court. He has a serious political gripe against [Msibi]. It’s unfortunate that political scores have to be settled in court,” said Jordaan.

This case also has no proper foundation or basis for prosecution. The only remaining case against his client involves the vandalism of vehicles in 2017, following a commotion because of a group attempting to halt a school construction project. The case was withdrawn on February 16 because witnesses did not show up for the trial, but it has since been reinstated.

“This case also has no proper foundation or basis for prosecution,” said Jordaan.

By accusing PEC members of conspiring to bring him down, Msibi could be referring to the jostle for power in Mpumalanga since Deputy President David Mabuza left his post as premier of the province in 2017.

Msibi’s name has been counted among those considered to be a possible successor to Mabuza. However, he has rallied behind acting provincial chairperson Mandla Ndlovu as the prospective next chairperson and has settled for the treasury position.

Msibi started as a ward councillor in the City of Mbombela and moved up the ladder to become a council speaker. Mabuza co-opted him into the PEC when he flexed his political muscle and made Pienaar inaccessible to any politician who did not get along with him.

Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane appointed Msibi as cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC in 2018, but transferred him to the agriculture portfolio when she reshuffled her cabinet.

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