After messages circulate on social media fingering George Matjila for masterminding violence, Luthuli House calls him in to explain
George Matjila, the man identified in circulated WhatsApp messages as the brains behind the chaos in Tshwane, was summoned by the ANC to Luthuli House to explain himself this week.
After ANC regional chairperson Kgosientso Sputla Ramokgopa and his deputy, Mapiti Matsena, Matjila is the third most powerful politician in the area.
According to allegations from his opponents, it is Matjila who was the “mastermind” behind the violent protests against the ANC’s choice of Thoko Didiza to replace Ramokgopa.
He was called to the ANC’s headquarters in downtown Johannesburg this week for answers.
“I explained that such things do not exist and I am open to being investigated,” Matjila says.
“It is lies and propaganda spread by my foes in the ANC. It is not people from outside. It is people from the ANC who are threatened about my presence,” he says.
A text message distributed this week said Matjila was “head coordinator” in the burning of government and city buildings, closing of exits and entrances to all zones and stopping political activities as part of a “NoSputlaNoVote” campaign.
Matjila, a member of the Tshwane mayoral committee, who was seen as Ramokgopa’s henchman, recently survived expulsion from the ANC.
The ANC provincial disciplinary committee under Mondli Gungubele expelled Matjila from the party in April after he was found guilty of being the “mastermind” behind the disruptions at the ANC Youth League regional conference in 2014.
Matjila’s expulsion could have been the turning point in Ramokgopa’s campaign to retain the Tshwane mayoral post.
Soon after, signs started emerging that the close relations between Ramokgopa and the powerful Gauteng ANC leaders were under threat.
Despite the expulsion, Ramokgopa kept Matjila in office as member of the mayoral committee for roads, opening himself up to fierce attacks from opponents and the formal launch of a campaign to remove him as mayor.
But those close to Ramokgopa say he was right because Matjila had appealed the sanction before the ANC national disciplinary committee. In May, the committee reinstated Matjila.
Matjila says that when people have evidence of wrongdoing against him, they should go to the police.
“You do not circulate messages with an unknown number and speak in dark corners,” he says.
The people behind the allegations were the same people who had him expelled, he says.
He has always been loyal to Ramokgopa “as a leader of the ANC. I was not supporting him individually, but as a leader. Any leader of the organisation who is elected, I support,” he says.
“But once the ANC makes a decision that another person should be the mayoral candidate, I am bound by the constitution of the ANC to support that individual,” says Matjila.
Sympathisers this week said Matjila had on Wednesday managed to calm tensions in Hammanskraal – his political stronghold – and things were back to normal.
But Matjila’s opponents continued to distribute what they claimed to be evidence against him. The evidence includes pictures that purport to show a meeting that allegedly happened at a hotel in Pretoria.
“The hotel was the same place where chaos started and a police car was overturned in the vicinity,” according to a Tshwane youth leader, who is opposed to both Matjila and Ramokgopa.
Matjila dismisses the allegations as “lies”. He says the pictures being circulated are from Durban, where he went with comrades to rest.
He says the police have not called him in for questioning, but “some comrades in that picture were phoned and interviewed”.
State Security Minister David Mahlobo this week said the security agencies had been cautious about how they dealt with information that came before them.
“There is another thing. If people are fighting among themselves, they could also try to do character assassinations of others,” said Mahlobo.