SOWETAN | Mashatile, clear the air over Sodi
As a seasoned politician, deputy president Paul Mashatile has perfected the art of deflection, answering questions never asked to avoid answering those that are.
In the last week, Mashatile held various interviews with the media to discuss his first three months in office.
The most obvious question for many journalists was whether he still believed there was a plot to oust him, as he claimed to City Press on Sunday.
In that interview, he had said there was a plan by his detractors in the ANC to get rid of him by next month – a claim which typically strengthened an existing narrative by some that he is a victim of so-called anti-progressive forces trying to block his presidential ambitions.
He has since backtracked on that claim after supposedly being convinced by President Cyril Ramaphosa that no such plot existed.
Most important, however, were questions about Mashatile’s relationship with corruption accused businessman Edwin Sodi, who is alleged to be his benefactor.
Sodi is a serial tenderprenuer who has received a string of government contracts across the country in questionable ways and after bagging payments, left many of them unfinished.
Last month, News24 reported that Mashatile had occasionally made use of Sodi’s palatial home in Cape Town between 2016 and 2020, at the height of Sodi’s alleged swindling of the state and at a time when Mashatile was treasurer-general of the ANC.
When asked by this newspaper about the allegations surrounding his friendship with a man accused of siphoning money from the state with little accountability, Mashatile said any expectation that he should not befriend Sodi was unfair.
Theirs, he said, was a friendship that spanned years and denying it would be dishonest. He said he had not been to Sodi’s house since he joined the Presidency.
Except, this is not the point. No one has ever expected Mashatile to claim not to know Sodi.
At issue is whether he is indeed a beneficiary of Sodi’s patronage network and whether he may have used his political influence to shield him from accountability.
Mashatile’s avoidance of these questions does not in itself point to him being Sodi’s enabler.
After all, there are several ANC politicians who hold power and influence and have questionably benefitted from Sodi’s largesse.
However, it does raise reasonable concern about the true nature of the affiliation between the country’s number two and a man whose game plan has always been to make a quick buck from the state.
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