Magashule sues for defamation over ATM claims

ANC SG Ace Magashule is suing Buyisile Ngqulwana for defamation. He wants the court to declare that the allegations are false and to order Ngqulwana to retract them. (Rogan Ward)

ANC SG Ace Magashule is suing Buyisile Ngqulwana for defamation. He wants the court to declare that the allegations are false and to order Ngqulwana to retract them. (Rogan Ward)

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has said in court papers that allegations that he was involved in the formation of a rival political party are “completely false” and had led to him being seen as a “sell-out” and “dishonest and treacherous”.

In his court papers, Magashule confirmed that he is currently being investigated by the ANC for possible involvement in the establishment of smaller rival parties before the elections. The investigation followed allegations that he had been consulted about the formation of the African Transformation Movement (ATM); and was even involved in naming the party.

The party was widely reported to have been established as an alternative to a Cyril Ramaphosa-led ANC, with claims of connections to former president Jacob Zuma and Magashule.

The claim that Magashule was involved with the change of name from African Transformation Congress to ATM was made on oath to the Electoral Court by Buyisile Ngqulwana, the former general secretary of the South African Council of Messianic Churches, which was behind the formation of the ATM.

“The allegation is without any factual basis.
It is completely false. In fact, I have never met the first respondent [Ngqulwana] nor have I ever spoken to him,” said Magashule, in an affidavit filed in the Free State division of the high court.

Magashule is suing Ngqulwana for defamation. He wants the court to declare that the allegations are false and to order Ngqulwana to retract them. He wants the court to interdict him from repeating them. Magashule has also claimed R500 000 in damages.

In his affidavit, Magashule said that the first time he had ever heard about Ngqulwana was in the media when it reported the allegations of his involvement in the political party. He said even the ATM party itself — in an affidavit deposed by ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula — had said that the name ATM was adopted at the party’s council.

“There is absolutely no evidence, not a shred, that proves the veracity of Ngqulwana’s claim. It is plainly false; a fib; and invention of Ngqulwana,” Magashule said, adding that the allegations were malicious. He said when he wrote to Ngqulwana demanding a retraction, Ngqulwana responded by insisting that he stood by what he said.

Magashule said the effects of the allegations are “severe”. They have made people question whether he is a traitor and created an impression that he had betrayed the organisation he has served for over 40 years. As secretary-general he had been placed in an “office of trust” in the ANC.

“Trustworthiness and fidelity to the cause of the ANC are indispensable in my ability to lead the organisation. The strength of my office lies in the moral authority i[t] commands of the ANC - if I am accused of being a traitor from within, I am unable to discharge my duties.”

“I have been perceived as a sell-out to the cause of the ANC. Due to Ngqulwana’s defamatory statement, I have been painted as dishonest and treacherous,” he said.

At the time of publication, Ngqulana said he would be opposing the case. He did not want to comment further saying he was still working on his response with his lawyers.

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