On March 14 2009, Moss Phakoe – a beloved husband, son, brother and father, a dedicated trade unionist and a committed ANC councillor – was gunned down, aged 52, in his car in Rustenburg as he arrived home after putting up posters for the ANC election campaign. Moss Phakoe started as a shop steward at the ATC factory in Brits. He was instrumental in establishing the then banned ANC in the region, for which he was brutally assaulted by the Bophuthatswana police. He became an organiser in the National Union of Metalworkers, but prioritised his work in the ANC, becoming a municipal councillor in 2002. He served as a member of the mayoral committee until he was removed three times by Rustenburg’s then mayor, Matthew Wolmarans, for trying to expose corruption. 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. This week, more than three years after Phakoe’s brutal assassination, Matthew Wolmarans and his former bodyguard, Enoch Matshaba, were convicted for the murder and sentenced to 20 years in jail and life imprisonment, respectively. Moss Phakoe’s tragic story provides a shocking insight into the crisis of crime and corruption in our country. He sacrificed his life for blowing the whistle on corruption in the Bojanala Platinum District Municipality in North West. Just before his assassination, Phakoe handed Wolmarans a dossier that implicated numerous politicians in acts of corruption in the municipality. He also had evidence of fraud in North West drought-relief projects. R33-million had been allocated for drought relief, but none of the money reached the communities in need. Instead, it was siphoned off through companies. Comrade Moss handed documents proving this fraud to the then minister for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Sicelo Shiceka. Shiceka said he gave the documents to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). On the day of his funeral, the then provincial premier, Edna Molewa, said Phakoe’s death was a tragic loss of a loyal servant of the people of North West. She, Shiceka and the SAPS provincial commissioner all gave guarantees that investigations were at an advanced stage and an arrest was imminent. Yet for more than three years, Moss Phakoe’s family and Cosatu’s North West provincial secretary, Solly Phetoe, bravely battled to bring the killers to justice. It meant march after march and endless demands that leads be followed up. Phetoe’s untiring efforts in this regard earned him so many enemies Cosatu was forced to hire bodyguards for him. Everything possible was done to delay the police investigation, protect the culprits and keep the truth from the people. Friends of the murderers even mobilised sycophants from the ANC to display the movement’s sacred ANC symbols outside court in support of the killers. Regrettably, those who bussed in these protesters remain members and leaders of the movement. Allegations remain that others may be implicated in the murder, and Cosatu is continuing to demand the original report Phakoe submitted to be published and the whole truth be uncovered. We also demand the immediate release of a report by the SIU on corruption in 24 municipalities in the North West, which Shiceka promised the Cosatu central executive committee would be handed over but still has not. We need this to ensure those implicated do not go back to their offices to continue corruption. City Press has reported that since Moss Phakoe’s death, even more allegations of fraud and corruption in the province have surfaced, and are being probed by the Hawks. Former Madibeng municipal manager Philemon Mapulane was arrested and charged with fraud and corruption for allegedly receiving bribes for tenders worth R100-million. Other Madibeng officials have been arrested and charged, and no fewer than 28 cases of fraud and theft involving amounts ranging from R61 000 to R30-million are being investigated. 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. We must root out the corrupt few who tarnish the image of the many who are decent and honest. Let us hope that all those facing charges of corruption and murder will now face the full force of the law – and that we see no more demonstrations of support for them. Cosatu is campaigning that in Mangaung the ANC will endorse a call for those facing allegations of murder, rape and corruption to be forced to step aside while investigations take place, and that they only return to their positions once cleared. This is a big move that can help to clean up the image of our movement. Cosatu has been in the vanguard of the fight to root out corruption. That is why we have set up Corruption Watch. We are determined to track down those hijacking our movement to make money, regardless of their connections, and ensure that they are brought to court and, if found guilty, punished severely. That is why we demand that the Protection of State Information Bill, although much improved, be amended to ensure that officials cannot classify evidence of corruption as “secret” in order to punish whistleblowers. Cosatu has also called on the Protected Disclosures Act to be amended. Currently, this provides protection to employees only and excludes other individuals such as independent contractors and suppliers or recipients of services. Nepotism, patronage, corruption and greed are not only destroying the ethic of self-sacrifice and service to the people that has traditionally characterised our revolutionary movement. They are also exacerbating divisions and factionalism, which increasingly are not about ideology, but about access to tenders and contracts. Leadership contests are now less about political principles than about which faction of which individual will advance business careers and fill bank accounts. The worst problem of all is the emergence of death squads. Political killings are on the rise, in particular in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. If this continues, anyone who speaks out will be silenced, the entire state will be auctioned to the highest bidder and we shall be well on our way to becoming a corrupt banana republic. We owe it to Comrade Moss Phakoe’s memory to take a stand and say no to corruption. Zwelinzima Vavi is on the board of Corruption Watch and Cosatu’s general secretary. Read Corruption Watch's article on Moss Phakoe, the posthumous hero, here.
On March 14 2009, Moss Phakoe … was gunned down, aged 52, in his car in Rustenburg as he arrived home after putting up posters for the ANC election campaign. Our memorial to him should be the eradication of corruption, Zwelinzima Vavi wrote in City Press on 22 July 2012.