/ 27 August 2020

Cyril braces for Ace camp’s big flex

Migrant crisis: There have been glitches in the new membership system which ANC secretary general Ace Magashule launched last year.
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s enemies in the governing party will use this weekend’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting to try to force an investigation into the funding of his 2017 campaign for the ANC presidency.

While the meeting is officially meant to discuss decisive action against those accused of corruption in the party, the faction led by secretary general Ace Magashule will instead try to force the focus on Ramaphosa and his backers.

In doing so, they hope to take the pressure off Magashule and other allies who face potential censure — including former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede — if the meeting endorses Ramaphosa’s proposal that those implicated in the theft of state funds be forced to stand aside while their cases go to trial.

Magashule has been summoned by the party’s integrity commission and is scheduled to appear before it next week.

His allies will also push for action over the Covid-19 procurement scandal involving Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, and Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku, to put the president’s faction on the spot with a call for even-handed action over corruption. 

On Sunday the president set the tone for the meeting, with a letter to ANC members calling for those implicated in corruption to be suspended from office and for the party to distance itself from them.

The move was an apparent response to the outcry over the de facto promotion of Gumede — whom the party recalled last year as mayor for poor performance — despite her arrest over an allegedly corrupt R400-million waste disposal tender. 

Ramaphosa also called for the party to set guidelines banning leaders and their families from doing business with the government — a dig at Magashule, whose sons have received state Covid-19 tenders and who has defended the practice since.

In his letter to ANC members on Sunday, Ramaphosa said that the party needed to implement its conference decisions and call every member accused of corruption before its integrity commission or face disciplinary action.

However, Ramaphosa’s enemies in the ANC have been quick to push back. This week Andile Lungisa, one of the Magashule camp’s strongest backers in the Eastern Cape, wrote to the ANC top six and the NEC demanding an investigation into Ramaphosa’s campaign funding and accusing him of corruption.

Lungisa said the letter was a request that the party’s officials “attend to the long outstanding matter which has to do with the alleged money which was used to campaign for the current sitting president of the ANC towards the 2017 Nasrec ANC conference”.

Lungisa said that Ramaphosa had been aware of the donations, which were a violation of section 25 of the ANC constitution. “In political terms, delegates were bought in that Nasrec conference. This has never happened in the history of the ANC,” he said.

The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, led by Maga­shule ally Carl Niehaus, has also weighed in on the allegations of vote-buying at the conference, calling for the NEC to probe the matter.

On Thursday Niehaus tweeted that the “litmus test” for the NEC meeting would be whether “urgent and decisive action” would be taken over the campaign donation.“The NEC’s commitment to fighting corruption will be judged by that,” Niehaus said.

While Ramaphosa’s enemies will be focusing on his 2017 campaign, his allies are set to be pushing for action against Gumede, Magashule and others.

This week, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said in an SABC interview that the NEC would discuss Gumede’s promotion. She said the party’s national working committee was unhappy about the decision, and KwaZulu-Natal would be asked to explain the move.

KwaZulu-Natal ANC spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said that while the province’s representatives on the NEC were likely to be asked to explain their actions in sending Gumede to the legislature, a report on those implicated in corruption would be tabled at the meeting by Magashule.

“All provinces were tasked to compile a report on people who are implicated, so the assumption is that the secretary general’s office will present a report on the issues outlining all the cases of people implicated for the NEC to decide upon,” Ntombela said. “The province might have to explain themselves after that.”

Ntombela said there was “no change” to the province’s decision to move Gumede upwards. “We are awaiting the further guidance of the NEC on the matter,”’ he said.

The ANC in the province has also denied claims Gumede will be sworn in as the chair of the co-operative governance and traditional affairs portfolio committee, which exercises oversight over its municipalities.

A source in the ANC in the province said that secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli and chairperson Sihle Zikalala were likely to argue that the NEC should take a blanket decision to instruct all implicated leaders, should they be told that Gumede should be recalled.

“They will argue that there should be an across-the-board decision. That way, their problem in having to deal with [Gumede] is solved, and they assist in pushing for action against people in Ace’s faction,” he said.

Gumede’s promotion took place on the day that Magashule wrote to ANC provinces asking them to compile a list of all members implicated in corruption and facing charges for submission to the NEC for action.

In the letter, followed by an online meeting with provincial secretaries and chairpersons, Magashule said that the list should include “those charged in court” and members who are “accused of corruption and other serious crimes against the people.”

Those identified were expected to “stand aside” from the posts and their organisational tasks, he said.