Ramaphosa instructs dissolved Free State PEC to compromise

President Cyril Ramaphosa has instructed the dissolved Free State provincial executive committee (PEC) to halt its ambitions of appealing the ruling by the supreme court of appeal (SCA), which declared it unlawful and unconstitutional, sources say. 

Three ANC leaders who spoke to the Mail & Guardian said Ramaphosa and deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte had expressed a desire for the dissolved PEC to find a political solution and work with the disgruntled former PEC members who were behind the court challenge. 

This, they say, has been rejected by secretary general Ace Magashule, leaving the ANC’s top six at an impasse. 

The dissolution of the Free State PEC, which was installed during a provincial election in 2018, is another blow to an already bruised Magashule, who is on a campaign to overturn a decision that he should step aside from his position in the party before the end of the month. 

Magashule and several other ANC leaders facing criminal charges received a red card when the NEC resolved that all those facing court charges should step aside from their roles in the party. 

The decision came during a fierce meeting, which turned chaotic as Magashule’s loyalists threatened to resign. Ramaphosa said in his closing address that those who refused to step aside after 30 days would be suspended.

Magashule, a former chair in the province, was relying on his ally and now former PEC chair Sam Mashinini and the Fee State PEC to rally support in the province at regions and branches in an attempt to convince the National Executive Committee (NEC) to reverse its decision or pressure it to go to a special conference. 

The M&G previously reported that Magashule would turn to branches across the country to gain sympathy in the hope of overturning the step-aside decision.

“This court judgment obviously does not bode well for comrade Ace and those who wished to support him. Instead, it weakens him. If the president gets his way and the national working committee (NWC) agrees to a compromise leadership in the Free State, he is left with no powerful allies, and the president takes full control of the province. It’s not good for him at all, and I imagine he will be fighting for an appeal,” one party leader said. 

ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said the NWC would meet next week to discuss the Free State judgment. 

Former provincial spokesperson Thabo Meeko told the M&G that any consideration to appeal would be guided by the national leadership, “although we still reserve the right as complainants to appeal”.

Meeko said the national leadership decision would be determined by the ANC’s agenda of unity and renewal. 

“There are discussions which are unfolding within and among ourselves. The former PEC, the people who took the ANC to court as well as national. Those discussions will then determine the ultimate approach in terms of a way forward,” Meeko said 

The M&G understands that the dissolved PEC and the disgruntled former PEC members, including former Free State MEC for economic development Mxolisi Dukwana who has been a harsh critic of the secretary general, have been in talks to try and find a political solution to the province’s factional battles. 

The M&G has seen virtual meeting call logs dating as far back as January, where the dissolved PEC had late-night meetings with Dukwana and other disgruntled leaders cast out by Magashule.  

Meanwhile, the sources say Free State premier Sisi Ntombela is looking at developments to weigh her options in her bid to remove Mashishini from her cabinet. 

Ntombela intends to approach the top six to give her permission to remove Mashinini and some within her cabinet who are still loyal to Magashule. 

Ntombela, who is deputy president of the ANC Women’s League, was Magashule’s candidate of choice to succeed him as premier; however, the relationship has soured with Ntombela and some PEC members wanting to yank control of the province away from the secretary general. 

The SCA made its ruling on 1 April, which upheld an appeal to have the Free State PEC dissolved. 

The ruling declared that the Free State’s provincial conference in May 2018 was held in violation of a court order of November 2017. Therefore, its decisions, resolutions, and outcomes are unlawful and unconstitutional.

Three ANC members had turned to the court after the ANC in the province failed to obey an order to halt an elective conference owing to unlawful branches.

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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