POLITICS

David Mahlobo -- Zuma's 'Prime Minister'

The president is making sure he keeps ever closer to his loyal intelligence minister.

26/09/2017 16:06 SAST | Updated 26/09/2017 16:42 SAST
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President Jacob Zuma (L), Intelligence Minister David Mahlobo (C) and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (R).

As the divisions in the ANC and in the Cabinet have spread, President Jacob Zuma has grown closer and closer to Intelligence Minister David Mahlobo, who now occupies the role of a de facto prime minister.

Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa have utterly parallel ideas on how to run the state, while the president is punting Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over from him as party president. This act of political favouritism has caused an icy tension between the two men. Last week, Dlamini-Zuma was sworn in as an ANC MP, ahead of a rumoured Cabinet reshuffle to induct her into the executive.

In this atmosphere, he has turned to Mahlobo as his confidante and right-hand man.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe opposes state capture and has publicly criticised Zuma's continued closeness to the Gupta family.

In addition, Zuma is at odds with his SA Communist Party allies in Cabinet who have publicly called for him to step down and therefore have become an enemy within.

In this atmosphere, he has turned to Mahlobo as his confidante and right-hand man. Mahlobo accompanies Zuma on most trips and he was with him at the UN General Assembly again this week.

Mahlobo has a taste for interesting friends in business: the Qatar-based TV channel Al-Jazeera last year blew the lid on his friendship with alleged Rhino-poaching kingpin Guan Jiang Guang.

At the weekend, The Sunday Times reported that Mahlobo had made the introductions between the Russian gas company, Rosgeo, and the colourful business pair Kenny Kunene and Gayton McKenzie.

Earlier this month, Rosgeo inked a R5.3-billion deal with PetroSA for gas exploration off the southern coast to feed the gas to liquids refinery at Mossel Bay at the recent Brics summit in Xiamen, China. Kunene and McKenzie were introduced to the Russian executives as the local partners in the deal, according to The Sunday Times. Kunene and McKenzie are hucksters and well-known ex-convicts who have owned nightclubs, who enjoy sushi, started a political party called the Patriotic Alliance and are friends with Zuma.

POOL New / Reuters
Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, South African Minister of State Security David Mahlobo and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

READ: The first person President Jacob Zuma spoke to after delivering his January 8th address was David Mahlobo.

Kunene's website, Weekly Exposé, which was registered by an employee of the Gupta family, has aired details of the women with whom Ramaphosa had allegedly had extramarital affairs.

Mahlobo has a taste for interesting friends in business: the Qatar-based TV channel Al-Jazeera last year blew the lid on his friendship with alleged Rhino-poaching kingpin Guan Jiang Guang. Images of Mahlobo canoodling with staff at Guan's massage parlour in Mbombela briefly went viral, but the Hawks have put the investigation on ice as the rhino man has gone AWOL.

Mahlobo has been a member of the ANC NEC since 2012 and knows Zuma from his time as a young activist in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

A former head of intelligence, who requested anonymity, says economic diplomacy where Cabinet members support local businesses is common, but it is highly unusual for introductions to be made by intelligence ministers. "As a minister of intelligence, you don't get involved in business. It's shocking," he said, adding, "What national security imperative was being pursued to make him get involved?"

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State Security Minister David Mahlobo addresseses the media on the side-lines of the African National Congress (ANC) 5th national policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on July 04, 2017 in Johannesburg.

Zuma was ANC head of intelligence for many years and feels comfortable in the security world. Mahlobo is a newcomer to Intelligence and was appointed to the Cabinet from Parliament in 2014. Since then his rise has been spectacular.

At 45 years old, Mahlobo is among the Young Turks Zuma promoted into the national executive. The son of a chief hails from Mpumalanga and has served in the ANC in many capacities after its unbanning. He has been a member of the ANC NEC since 2012 and knows Zuma from his time as a young activist in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The Zuma-Mahlobo bromance . . . the year that was

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On walkabout at an unknown location in South Africa.

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At a bliateral with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic on 5 January 2017.
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At the UN General Assembly in New York on 20 September 2017.

The Presidency
Mahlobo and Zuma at a meeting of the African Union High Level Committee on Libya in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo on 9 September 2017.

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At a bilateral between South Africa and China on the sidelines of the BRICS summit on 4 September 2017.

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At a SADC meeting earlier this year, undated.

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At a SADC summit on 19 August 2017.

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After a bilateral meeting with the Central African Republic on 5 April 2017. Mahlobo stands next to mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

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At the same bilateral with the Central African Republic.

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At an undated SADC meeting.

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At a visit to the country's border post between Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal in the beginning of the year.

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At a bilateral with Qatar on 12 April 2017.