African National Congress treasurer-general Mathews Phosa speaks about business and politics during the Discovery leadership summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Wednesday, 22 July 2009. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA
African National Congress treasurer-general Mathews Phosa speaks about business and politics during the Discovery leadership summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Wednesday, 22 July 2009. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Phosa-Yacoob ’step aside’ rule spat ends in a truce after intervention

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published May 25, 2021

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Former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa and former Constitutional Court Justice Zak Yacoob smoked the peace pipe on Africa Day.

The two announced the truce on Tuesday following the intervention of Dr Khulu Mbatha, the former special adviser of former president Kgalema Motlanthe.

The dispute between Phosa and Yacoob arose last Friday, after the justice contacted Phosa on his phone and questioned his decision to provide legal opinion to suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule on the ANC’s step-aside policy in October last year.

The discussion ended on a sour note, which prompted Phosa to approach the police on Sunday, lodging a criminal complaint of intimidation and crimen injuria against Yacoob. Yacoob reportedly insulted insulted the politician for writing a “s*** opinion” about the step-aside rule.

On Monday night, Phosa confirmed to Independent Media that he was penning a letter for the attention of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) - which is responsible for the conduct of judges, including those who have retired like Yacoob. At the time, Yacoob had already communicated to one of the national media house’s his intention to defend himself before the JSC.

While it was expected for Phosa to file his complaint with the JSC, the two parties made an about-turn, saying in a joint statement: “It is perhaps fitting that we issue this joint statement on the anniversary of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity back on the 25th of May, 1963, the forerunner to the African Union.

“In the spirit of the unity demonstrated by our ancestors on that day, we have resolved what was an unacceptable situation between two senior members of the South African society during a time when we face so many challenges as a country,” they said.

They also acknowledged the role played by Mbatha, in his personal capacity and out of concern for what he heard in the media regarding Yacoob’s utterances directed at Phosa.

Mbatha called both parties and listened to what had occurred, as he knew both of them very well from their days of exile and especially during 1991 to 1994.

Mbatha also worked with Phosa – when he was the chairperson of the ANC in the Eastern Transvaal Region - now known as Mpumalanga.

During the tenure of former president Kgalema Motlanthe, Yacoob chaired the South African National Aids Council and worked with Mbatha, who was an adviser to Motlanthe.

The parties also individually offered their apologies, saying: “I, Judge Yacoob, apologise unreservedly to Dr Phosa for what I said to him at the end of our conversation.

’’I have a high regard for Dr Phosa, both as a comrade who was with me in the struggle for liberation and as a fellow lawyer. We were comrades in the dark days during Operation Vula and were united against all that the Apartheid State could throw at us.

“I wish to restore our relationship after this unfortunate spat.”

Phosa also said: “I, Dr Phosa, accept the apology from Judge Yacoob and shall withdraw all complaints I had laid with the police as a result of the call I received from the judge.

’’We must be reminded that we shall need all the resources of our people to fight the many battles we have ahead and we must not be sidetracked by the discomforts of the present, however they arise.

“Let me loosely quote Che Guevara and state that there should be peace among the people and war against the enemy.

’’The enemies we face are poverty, unemployment and inequality, exacerbated by corruption and criminality. Let our polemic and personality differences not shift us from the path of achieving the dream our people deserve.”

The two also confirmed that the matter was now closed.

Political Bureau

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