Exclusive: How Manana wriggled himself out of a rock and a hard place
Back story: How ex-deputy minister Mduduzi Manana negotiated with his domestic worker under a tree outside the police station
Times Select journalist Penwell Dlamini on Sunday witnessed former deputy Education minister Mduduzi Manana, who has been convicted of assault and is still a member of parliament, negotiate with his domestic worker under a tree outside the Douglasdale police station in Johannesburg after she opened a case of common assault against him. Read Dlamini’s account below to see how the story unfolded. Manana has a previous assault conviction, for which he opted to pay a fine - but in a statement issued late on Monday night, the former deputy minister denied any wrongdoing and threatened to sue the woman's family for extortion. His full, unedited, statement is at the bottom of this story.
On Sunday afternoon, I received a tip-off that charges were being laid against Manana at the Douglasdale police station. I went to Fourways and found the domestic worker Christine Wiro with her son Mpho and a family friend (who asked not to be named) at a restaurant near the police station. They had already opened a case of assault and crimen injuria against him.
Wiro, a Zimbabwean woman who has been his domestic worker for only three weeks, told me her version of what led to the charge laid. She said every time she made a mistake in her new job at the Cedar Creek Estate, Fourways, he would threaten her with deportation. On Sunday morning he told her he was expecting a visitor and that she needed to cook breakfast for two people. When the doorbell rang she opened the gate, assuming it was Manana’s guest. She said he shouted at her, saying “he will tell me whether to open or not. I apologised but he then said people could come and rob the house and rape me,” said Wiro.“He then threatened to deport me. He said: ‘I’m a politician, I have connections. I will deport you.’ When he said this I simply smiled and he got angry.”
She decided to quit on the spot. Wiro claimed he became aggressive and alleged that she was pushed down the stairs. According to her: “I was already leaving and he was coming down from the stairs. He pushed me from the back but I was able to grab the rails and did not hit the floor. I went to the kitchen to fetch my phone and he followed me shouting phuma endlini yam (get out of my house).”
While Wiro was telling me this, she appeared to be very upset and tramautised. She would not even eat the chips her son ordered for her in the restaurant. Her son and her friend were begging her to eat because she needed to take medication.
After the interview she received an SMS from the SA Police Service with the case number of the case she had just opened against Manana.
Moments later her phone rang, and she said: “It is him,” showing me the phone. “Should I answer?” She took the call and told us Manana had asked her to meet him so he could pay her outstanding wages. She told him to meet her at the Douglasdale police station because she said she felt safer there.We drove together in one car to the police station: me, Wiro, her son and her friend. She and her son walked into the charge office. I waited outside with her friend. I could see Manana through the window. I watched him give Wiro a hug. Then they came out of the charge office, and stood talking under a tree. I watched from a distance as Manana, Wiro, her son and another lady – who later introduced herself as Manana’s sister – spoke animatedly.
The sister was doing most of the talking. It looked like she was begging them.
Wiro’s friend and I continued to watch them, but then her friend became impatient. She said this was taking far too long; Manana was just supposed to hand over Wiro’s wages. She walked over to them to ask what the delay was. I saw Manana put his arm around the friend. It looked like he was trying to calm her down. But a few moments later she came back, fuming, and claiming: “They are trying to offer something to cancel the case … he is really trying his best to make sure she cancels the case. He wants her to take the money and not get justice for what she went through.”
It was late now, around 10pm. It was cold. Her son came to me, alleging: “They are really offering us something.” He too looked upset. The friend said: “Don’t take it.”
Her son went back to the “negotiating tree”. Manana and his sister were still talking to Wiro.
Her friend then led Wiro away from the tree, and took her to the car. All of us – me, Wiro, her son and her friend – got into the car. Manana’s sister stopped us from closing the car door.
She told us: “We are black people. We should not do this to one another. She [Wiro] needs money. You can go to court but that still will not give her money.”
When she realised she was getting nowhere, she turned to me, not knowing that I am a journalist.
Looking directly at me, she said, speaking in a mix of Zulu and Xhosa: “Please listen, Buti. We will give her money. We will give all of you here money, individually. Please consider our request. My brother is a politician and he does not need this. We are black people, we can’t be doing this to each other.”
I was shocked. Now she was offering all of us money. I stayed quiet and Wiro’s son came to my rescue. He firmly said: “We are going ahead [with the case]. Go speak to your brother. He knows it. I have told him our final word.”
The woman finally agreed to leave. It was 23.20. We drove off.Mpho claimed: “He first offered my mother a job. She rejected it. He then offered a job for her where she would work for a friend, but she rejected that one too. He then offered us R100,000.”
I dropped them off; we exchanged phone numbers and agreed that we would talk again on Monday morning.
When I came to the office, I called the police to find out if Manana would be taken to court. The brigadier I spoke to said, no, it was unlikely to happen today [Monday].
I tried the whole morning to call Wiro and Mpho, and their friend. None of them answered their phones. I found it strange because we had made an arrangement to talk.
Later in the day, I saw someone say on Twitter the charge had been withdrawn.
I called the police but there was no answer. I texted Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, asking if the case against Manana had been withdrawn? He simply replied: “Yes, it has.”
It was just after midday on Monday, nearly 12 hours since I had last seen Wiro. The police did not give any reasons for the withdrawal of the case.
I tried to call both Wiro and Mpho again on Monday night. Both their phones went straight to voicemail.
During the course of Monday, I tried to contact Manana directly but he did not answer his phone.
I then finally managed to get hold of Manana’s lawyer, Michael Motsoeneng, to offer Manana a right to reply. But his lawyer told me he was not even aware that such a case existed.
He said he would get back to me on Monday, and a statement was released via a Gauteng government WhatsApp group on Monday night. Here is the full, unedited, statement:
"STATEMENT BY MR MDUDUZI MANANA ON AN ALTERCATION BETWEEN HIMSELF AMD HIS DOMESTIC HELPER:
"The new allegations leveled against me are both unfortunate and malicious. Ms Catherine Wiro was employed as my domestic worker for a period of two weeks and she is a Zimbabwean national. On her first week at work, I realized that she often gives access to everyone who comes to my home and I warned her about a possible security risk that such conduct poses to me and especially to her as she could easily be raped. This was the week preceding the long weekend and I gave her permission to go home as I was also traveling to my home province of Mpumalanga for party deployment. She returned on Tuesday (01 May 2018). On Wednesday (02 May 2018), I brought to her attention that I am missing some possessions (i.e a camera and a box of crystal glasses). She responded by crying that I am accusing her of stealing.
"On 06 May 2018, I woke up in the morning and told her that I was expecting a guest and she should prepare breakfast for two persons. I went back to take a shower and then I heard voices from the kitchen. I stepped out of my bedroom and discovered that my guest had already made herself comfortable at my home. I then confronted Ms. Wiro that she should have verified with me that there was Ms Sithembile Ntuli at the gate before opening for her because I had not told her the name of the guest that I was having breakfast with. Like any other employer, it is within my right to reprimand Ms. Wiro if she flouts the rules of the house, and she responded by laughing, much to my guest's shock. I then asked her if there was anything funny from what I'm saying. She responded and said 'I do not know'. I went on to ask if she still interested in the job. Again, she responded and said 'I said I do not know'. I then asked her to leave the house as that was not the correct attitude for any workplace.
"I wish to place on record that since the case assault which was leveled against me and for which I pleaded guilty, there has been desperate attempts to discredit and tarnish my name. This deliberate ploy is to use assault as a permanent stigma attached to me by my detractors whom I believe had a major influence in her opening the case and giving her access to the media community. This despite many corrective measures I have put in place to embrace, empower and push for the emancipation of women in our country. I have stated before that the incident that unfolded at Cubana leading to my guilty plea was unfortunate and sad, to an extent that it cost my job, and therefore I could never have a repeat of it.
"I am aware that a case of assault has been withdrawn but I have instructed my lawyers to file a legal suit against the Wiro family for extortion as they demanded an amount of R100,000. Instead, I gave Ms Wiro money that was due to her for the two weeks period that she worked at my home. Further details on this specific matter remain sub judice."
Last November, Manana was sentenced to a R100‚000 fine‚ or 12 months in prison‚ and 500 hours of community service by the Randburg Magistrate's Court after he admitted to attacking three women at a restaurant in Fourways. He was also ordered to attend an anger-management programme and pay compensation to each of his victims, and declared unfit to possess a firearm. He quit his job as deputy minister but remains on in his position as a member of parliament.