Supporters of Ace Magashule believe the knives are out for the ANC secretary general and are accusing his opponents in the governing party of using state resources to conduct a clandestine investigation against him.
“We are aware that they are investigating him and the plan is to charge him soon after the 2019 general elections,” a close ally of Magashule, who asked not to be named, told the Mail & Guardian this week. A second source confirmed this.
In January, the Hawks raided the former Free State premier’s Bloemfontein offices, as well as those of the agriculture department, in connection with investigations into the Estina dairy farming project linked to the Gupta family. The Hawks said at the time that all information collected from the raid would be handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority.
On Thursday, the office of the public protector confirmed it had launched an investigation into the role of politicians in the dairy project. This follows a previous probe that did not consider political interference.
With the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture expected to begin in August, Magashule could find himself hauled before it to account for any role he may have played in the botched project.
His supporters have also accused a faction in the ANC aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa of trying to dilute Magashule’s powers and undermining his authority as the secretary general (SG).
They say some ministers in the Cabinet fail to consult Magashule when key appointments are made to parastatals. As an example, they cite the recent decision by the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) to reject the names suggested by Magashule as candidates for chairpersons of the parliamentary portfolio committees. Last month Magashule put forward the names of former ministers Faith Muthambi, David Mahlobo and Joe Maswanganyi as well as former deputy minister Thandi Mahambehlala. Only Maswanganyi made it (as chairperson of the public service and administration portfolio committee).
The original list was proposed by the ANC’s political council headed by National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete. Magashule’s preferred candidates were rejected after ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu told the party’s national executive committee (NEC) and the NWC that Magashule was not entitled to add names.
A senior government official sympathetic to Magashule said: “You have to look at this issue in the context of precedent. He [Magashule] is not the first SG of the ANC. There was Kgalema [Motlanthe] and there was Gwede [Mantashe]. Gwede was doing deployment single-handedly in terms of who goes to Parliament and would communicate a decision from Luthuli House to the chief whip of the ANC. But now they are trying to dilute the power of that office.”
He said a proposal was tabled in the NEC earlier this year that Magashule “be removed as chair of the national list committee. That was rejected because that’s a SG’s role, to head the national list committee.”
It was also the secretary general’s role to deploy leaders to speak at provincial rallies, he said. “You don’t just invite officials you want into your rally. You sent a proposal to the SG to make a final say.” Instead, “comrades just wake up and ask their provinces — where they claim to have ground — [to] ‘organise an event for me I will come and address’. ”
Another senior ANC leader and government official said that, although the ANC deployment committee is headed by the deputy president, all committees are supposed to report to the office of the secretary general, and usually deployment recommendations would be made in consultation with that office.
“But since Nasrec [the December ANC conference where Magashule was elected], nothing ever comes to the deployment committee.
“We see positions for board members in various state-owned enterprises being advertised in newspapers today, and two days later people are appointed without having consulted the ANC deployment committee and the office of the SG.”
Magashule supporters have also complained about repeated attempts to remove him as head of the list committee, which oversees the selection of ANC public representatives in Parliament and provincial legislatures ahead of next year’s general elections. Whoever makes it into Parliament as an MP stands a good chance of being appointed into theCabinet executive as ministers or deputy ministers after the elections.
“They [Ramaphosa supporters] want to make sure that the list is dominated by his people. They know that, with Ace at the helm and many ANC structures across the country still dominated by [former president Jacob] Zuma supporters, this is unlikely to happen,” said a senior ANC leader close to Magashule.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe was not available for comment at the time of going to print.