Former Free State Economic Development MEC Mxolisi Dukwana at the commission of inquiry into state capture. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Former Free State premier Ace Magashule's patronage network extended to the province's police and the judiciary that has since been left compromised, the state capture commission of inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Former economic development member of the executive council (MEC) Mxolisi Dukwana alleged that Magashule did a lot of damage in the Free State with no consequences.  

He said even though Magashule is based at the African National Congress' Luthuli House after his election as secretary-general in 2017, to this day, Magashule's management style and patronage system he implemented was still in place in the provincial government.

"A system of patronage and fear was built in the Free State. Many structures were compromised...the police are compromised and the judiciary too. Many were not surprised to hear that he [Magashule] is taking his defamation case against the ATM [African Transformation Movement] to the Bloemfontein High Court. Magashule knows he won't lose a case in Bloemfontein," Dukwana said.

"People there know this... he will get a verdict favouring him, we've seen that in action. People will happily tell you that if you have a case, bring it to the Free State and it will be squashed. The judiciary there is compromised... some of [the] members of the judiciary are doing business with government, some of their spouses work in government too. The system continues beyond him. Until you deal with [the] system, you can't do anything else."

Commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo raised concerns about the alleged tainted judiciary.

"I may be wrong but I don't know if I read or heard something along those lines. I sat together with colleagues in the Constitutional Court hearing a case on [the ANC] Mangaung conference in 2012. The case had started in the High Court in Bloemfontein before," Zondo said. 

"I seem to remember that there was some statement I heard raising concerns on what you are raising now...I would like you and those who have uneasiness [about the judiciary] to come forward and tell the commission because, of all arms of the state, the judiciary is one arm that people should feel comfortable dealing with. One would like to see if there is a factual basis for these concerns."

Dukwana replied: "I think many of us will be interested in doing that, chairperson."

The former MEC and ANC provincial executive committee member is expected to detail Magashule's relationship with the fugitive Guptas and how the family was let loose and gobbled up Free State resources while Magashule was provincial premier. 

He revealed last year that he was offered a R2 million ''monthly fee'' by the Gupta family to sign off a contract for a ''New City'' or ''City of Tomorrow'' that was to be built at the Lejweleputswa District Municipality in the Free State. The project was expected to take up to 10 years to complete, but has since failed to take off. Dukwana said he turned down the offer.

Magashule fired him from the provincial cabinet in 2012 for allegedly refusing to cooperate with the fugitive family.  

Dukwana told Zondo that he had known Magashule for a long time and were close comrades even before 1994. He said branches agreed in the early '90s that an ANC chairperson in the province should become premier. Former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki chose not to appoint Magashule as premier, resulting in ANC members rallying around Magashule and defending him at every turn.

"We defended and protected him. It was only in 2009 when he was appointed premier [by former president Jacob Zuma]. I asked him [Magashule] if it wasn't time he outgrew Free State politics and go to national. At that time, the concern was that the Free State hadn't been able to contribute to national politics except for Fikile Mbalula who had risen from the youth league. It was at that point where he felt I was trying to push him out so I can take over, but he was wrong."

Although there were "signs" from Magashule, himself and other people around him chose to ignore them, to the detriment of the people of the Free State.

"There were signs but we protected him. It then developed into a cult in the Free State...had we nipped it all in the bud at the time, we probably wouldn't be here, chairperson. Our failure to deal with that created a big problem and it is probably what motivated me to not do the same mistake again. I won't keep quiet when things keep going wrong. We failed the people of Free State when we didn't act at that time we were supposed to."

Dukwana will continue giving evidence on Wednesday.

African News Agency (ANA)