ANC secretary general Ace Magashule says he will never treat former president Jacob Zuma as an outcast, despite damning allegations that he met the former ANC leader in Durban last weekend to plot the removal of Cyril Ramaphosa as the party’s president.
“Zuma has been president of the ANC. I treat him like any former president of the ANC. People want to treat Zuma like an outcast. He is not. He is the ex-officio member of the ANC national executive committee,” said Magashule in an interview at the Mail & Guardian’s offices in Johannesburg on Thursday.
The embattled secretary general said his meeting with Zuma was in line with the ANC’s decision to have discussions with all former leaders as the party prepares for next year’s crucial general elections.
“We agreed we will engage all former leaders. I have not only met Zuma but many other former leaders as well. We are on a mission to meet all former leaders. If we are to renew the ANC, we need all those former leaders like Zuma, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe,” he said.
“Why is my meeting with Zuma seen as a plot? How do I go to Zuma and say, ‘let’s plot the removal of Ramaphosa’? I respect Ramaphosa as president of the ANC. Fortunately, I was ANC [Free State] chairman under Nelson Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma. I respected all of them,” said Magashule.
He said the calls by ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu for the party to investigate the plot allegations were uncalled for.
“What will the ANC investigate? How do you plot against Ramaphosa? How does a reasonable man conclude that my meeting with Zuma is a plot. I don’t know what made it secret because we met in a public space. The officials of the ANC understood that there is nothing. They thought I denied the fact that I met Zuma but I told them I never denied that.”
He also told the M&G he was prepared to appear before the Zondo commission of inquiry if the need arose for him to answer allegations of state capture against him.
Magashule’s involvement in the state capture project during his time as Free State premier has been questioned following a series of allegations of his improper links to the Gupta family.
In January Magashule found himself in hot water when the Hawks raided his Bloemfontein offices in connection with the Estina dairy farming project.
The project, which was intended to empower black farmers, saw the Free State government pour R220-million into the initiative, with only about R2-million being spent on the farmers. The rest is alleged to have been siphoned to various individuals, including the Gupta brothers.
This week fresh allegations linked Magashule’s Free State administration to the Guptas during the state capture commission of inquiry. Treasury employee Jan Gilliland testified that the Free State government had channelled a total of R79.3-million to Gupta-owned media companies during Magashule’s term.
“At any given time I will be happy to go to the state capture commission to testify,” said Magashule.
“All of us will be ready. People have been prosecuted [in the court of public opinion]. I am happy we have the state capture commission. I would be happy to go and appear.”