19 July 2024 | 07:26 AM

Update: Now ANC admits off-books campaigner helped with elections

Key Takeaways

On Tuesday, the ANC was forced to backpedal on claims that it had no knowledge of a covert election campaign team known as the War Room.

Last week, ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa responded to questions about the campaign by saying amaBhungane’s investigation was “based on malicious falsehoods and gossip”.

However, ANC general manager Ignatius Jacobs submitted an affidavit to the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday, confirming that public relations expert Sihle Bolani was part of the ANC’s campaign team in last year’s municipal elections.

Bolani has detailed how the War Room was set up to “disempower DA and EFF campaigns” through tactics that would not link back to the ANC.

These included a seemingly independent news site and chat show, using “influencers” on social media, and planning to print fake opposition party posters.

Bolani took the ANC to court, claiming she was owed R2.2-million in outstanding fees.

Jacobs’ affidavit, on behalf of the ANC, denied she was owed money as she had volunteered.

He said: “[Bolani] undertook to volunteer her services and be part of the campaign team, together with other volunteers, to roll out the elections marketing strategy of the [ANC] in preparation for the local government elections on 3 August 2016.”

In her founding affidavit, Bolani said she was approached by businessman Joseph Nkadimeng in April last year to become part of the War Room.

Public relations expert Sihle Bolani, who claims she is owed R2.2 million for work done

However she was forbidden from having any direct contact with Luthuli House and instructed to make out invoices to an apparently non-existent company called Black Carbon and to two ANC-linked investment vehicles.

However, R50 million in promised funding did not materialise. After the project’s eventual cancellation, Bolani approached the ANC.

This led to Jacobs signing a R1-million settlement agreement, of which Bolani said she received only R100,000.

Jacobs said in his affidavit that the ANC disputed Bolani’s original claim for payment “on the grounds that there was no agreement that [she] would charge a fee for services rendered for the said amount. [Bolani], like all other volunteers, would have received payment for disbursements.”

Despite this, Jacobs said, he signed the R1-million settlement agreement “purely as a gesture of good will”.

Although the agreement was drawn up on an ANC letterhead and Jacobs signed in his official capacity as ANC general manager, Jacobs claimed that the agreement was “not binding” as only secretary-general Gwede Mantashe could bind the party.

However, “the [ANC] acknowledges that the balance of R900,000 is still outstanding but is not due and payable at this stage.”

The court on Tuesday dismissed Bolani’s claim.

Representing herself, she had brought the application on an urgent basis. The court said she had failed to prove urgency.

The court also awarded costs in favour of the ANC after the ANC said that as a non-government organisation it relied mainly on membership fees and could not afford to waste money on legal fees.

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Susan Comrie and Ankit Paliwal, Input Editor at IANS in India

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