By Valencia Talane
In part one of our whistleblower series we got to know Cecilia Sililo-Tshishonga. In part two, we meet a man who was brave enough to stand up against corruption, and was very possibly killed for it.
The story of the life of the late Moss Phakoe is one that evokes varying emotions. He is often remembered by colleagues and comrades as a dedicated unionist and ANC leader who put the struggle for liberation before all else.
He was murdered in April 2009 in the driveway of his Rustenburg home, reportedly two days after the last of several attempts to blow the whistle on corruption he had uncovered within the structures of his employer, Bojanala District Municipality.
Phakoe was a councillor in the Rustenburg Municipality and together with friend, colleague and confidant Alfred Motsi, had approached the leadership of the ANC at regional, provincial and national level with the evidence he had gathered, according to the City Press, but nothing was done.
One of the key figures at the centre of his corruption allegations was Matthew Wolmarans, another ANC leader in the area and mayor of Rustenburg. Following a lengthy investigation into the murder, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) brought Wolmarans and his former bodyguard Enoch Matshaba to book for Phakoe’s slaying. Wolmarans, argued the prosecution, had had a hand in the plotting of the murder while Matshaba had been responsible for the actual shooting.
Throughout their trial, which ran from 2010 to 2012, it was revealed that Wolmarans viewed Phakoe as his adversary and a big threat to his political power in the municipality. Matshaba on the other hand, was merely following instructions when he shot the 52-year-old father of three. Matshaba was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment, with Wolmarans receiving a 20-year sentence.
The pair applied for leave to appeal their convictions immediately after the initial trial ended in July 2012 and although this was refused by the North West High Court, they went on to apply to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which granted it in January 2013. With their successful appeal, Wolmarans and Matshaba made a further application for bail pending the outcome of their leave to appeal and this was granted in May at R100 000 each.
The leave to appeal and bail were granted on the basis of the defence presenting affidavits in which a key witness in the murder trial had recanted his testimony. Emmanuel Masoka had shared a cell with Wolmarans upon the former mayor’s arrest for Phakoe’s murder, and in his testimony had claimed that Wolmarans had confessed to the killing at this time.
Family man and friend
In an opinion piece he wrote shortly after the initial trial was wrapped up, Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi said of Phakoe: “He was a perfect example of what a revolutionary activist should be: serving the people, expecting no personal reward and determined to expose those betraying our liberation movement through crime and corruption, which robs us of services and rots the moral fibre of our society.”
He further wrote of the importance of all South Africans working together to root out the corrupt few who tarnish the image of the many who are decent and honest.
Phakoe’s family recently wrote to the NPA asking for clarity over why Wolmarans and Matshaba were “still roaming our streets and enjoying freedom”.
Business Day also reported that in the letter, the family said Wolmarans was “throwing parties” for friends and Matshaba was “still coming to the same street where he shot and killed Moss Phakoe”.
“We are very confused about our justice system, which turns to favour the ones with financial powers and disregard the needs of the poor,” Phakoe’s son Tlholo wrote to the NPA.
The NPA replied on October 11, “It is indeed true” that Matshaba and Wolmarans are out on bail until their appeal hearing.
North West senior deputy director of public prosecutions Hosea Molefe Molefe urged the family to “report to the police should (the two) do anything which is against the law”.
However, an attorney for Wolmarans and Matshaba claims the odds are stacked in their favour. Raphepheng Mataka said the evidence on which the high court relied to convict his clients had glaring holes.
“The best memorial to Moss Phakoe will be to take forward the crusade he lived and died for – to rid our country of corruption and revive our traditions of selfless service to the people.”