/ 30 March 2021

Lifeline for Magashule, but Ramaphosa wins this round

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Former ANC secretary general, Ace Magashule. File photo

Ace Magashule may have received a lifeline but it was President Cyril Ramaphosa who won the day when the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) met for a four-day marathon meeting that was characterised as “chaotic”. 

On Monday morning, secretary general Magashule was dealt a heavy blow, when the NEC resolved to give those facing charges seven days to step aside from their roles in the party. 

But just before Ramaphosa was set to announce the decision, Magashule made known that he would not sign off on it, saying that it was smuggled into the ANC’s closing remarks. 

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The Mail & Guardian has received recordings of Magashule making this statement. 

The ANC’s already chaotic NEC meeting descended into madness, with party chairperson Gwede Mantashe battling to maintain order among senior members. 

This led to a stalemate, with the top six deciding that the meeting, originally scheduled for three days, would continue on Monday. After deliberations, the national officials resumed the meeting to announce that Magashule had asked for 30 days to consult with party elders, including former presidents, on the matter of his stepping aside. 

His allies have viewed this as a lifeline — even going as far as saying the secretary general won this round — but it was Ramaphosa who seemingly had the last laugh. 

Below are some of the reasons why.

Radical Economic Transformation forces

Magashule has received a great deal of his support from corners of the ANC that consider themselves as forces of Radical Economic Transformation (RET), much like his ally, former president Jacob Zuma.

Magashule’s lieutenant, Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus — who also works at his office — was the architect of a basic RET manifesto. This called for the governing party to return to its socialist ideological orientation, stating that there cannot be organisational renewal without a recommitment to that approach.

In the document, Niehaus writes that the RET factions reject unity based on “abstract formulas” or a liberal approach to those who “deviate from the core of our national liberation struggle in theory and in practice”.

The NEC, however, rejected the existence of an RET grouping within the party, with Ramaphosa saying that no ANC member should associate themselves with or be involved in the so-called RET forces. 

“Furthermore, the NEC will not allow any member of the ANC staff to use the resources and premises of the ANC to hold meetings of the RET or any other faction,” Ramaphosa said on Monday night.  

The M&G understands from its sources that Niehaus could be facing a disciplinary process by the end of this week. 

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane 

When Magashule travelled to KwaZulu-Natal to pay his respects to the fallen Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, he stopped by at the Gagasi FM station, a popular IsiZulu radio station, where he said that voting with the Democratic Alliance against public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was tantamount to voting with the enemy.

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In no uncertain words, Magashule expressed his disdain for the decision taken by the top six to allow for the process to investigate her fitness to hold office. 

A day before, Ramaphosa, together with the party chairperson Gwede Mantashe, and treasurer general Paul Mashatile, were locked in a meeting with its caucus instructing it to “toe the party line” and vote for the process to unfold. Many Magashule supporters, including former North West chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, have indicated their dissatisfaction with the decision. 

This essentially means that Magashule, who for some time held some powers within the caucus, is losing his grip. 

In his statement on Monday evening, Ramaphosa said that in light of the findings of the independent experts that the public protector had a prima facie case to answer, the ANC caucus had agreed to support a motion in the National Assembly to move to the next stage of the process in terms of its rules.

In what seemed like a veiled attack on Magashule, the president said party leaders must abide by decisions of the collective and desist from making statements that contradict agreed positions of the movement.

“Public statements by any senior leader of the ANC that misrepresent policy positions of the movement and decisions of its structures are therefore

condemned without reservation,” he said. 

National working committee 

On Saturday the ANC voted for a new member of its national working committee (NWC), which is responsible for the day-to-day decisions of the party. With Nomaindia Mfeketo deployed to be an ambassador, the NEC nominated Ayanda Dlodlo, who has been shown to be less sympathetic to the president and Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, a Ramaphosa ally.  

Ramaphosa announced that Ramokgopa would take over the NWC seat, further strengthening the president’s hold on the party structure. 

Step-aside resolution

Although the step-aside resolution and the adopted guidelines became the cause of contention at the weekend meetings, with Magashule refusing to sign off on the NEC’s decision at the last moment, Ramaphosa and his allies managed to deal the so-called RET faction a fatal blow. 

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Magashule has often told the media and his supporters that only a special conference of branches could call for him to cease being the party’s chief administrator. 

His allies, including NWC member Dakota Legoete and veteran Tony Yengeni, fought vehemently to postpone the inevitable, but the NEC resolved that party officials facing criminal charges would be given 30 days’ notice before they had to step aside from their roles. 

Ramaphosa said that the NEC agreed that the provincial chairpersons and secretaries would meet with the national officials, otherwise known as the top six, to further refine the guidelines to ensure the resolution can be effectively and practically implemented. 

Ironically, Magashule’s office will work with the provinces to identify all people affected and inform them of the decision

Magashule who faces a legal battle in Mangaung, having been charged with corruption, money-laundering and fraud, must step aside or face suspension. 

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“The NEC welcomed the decision by the ANC secretary general Ace Magashule to use this time to seek the counsel of past leaders of the movement. The NEC called on all ANC members to rally around this decision and not to engage in any acts of indiscipline, including through mobilisation or public statements that undermine implementation of the conference resolution,” Ramaphosa said.