/ 13 April 2021

Ace tries to widen net to catch all with revised step-aside list

Ace Magashule And Co Accused Return To Court In Bloemfontein
The ANC national working committee (NWC) has thrown suspended secretary general Ace Magashule one more lifeline after the structure opted not to seek his expulsion, and instead to engage with him. (Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images)

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has broadened the terms of the party’s step-aside resolution to include members who have been accused of corruption, but not charged, as part of a push-back against the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

At the same time, Magashule has called on party branches to stand their ground and resist attempts to dissolve them ahead of crucial regional and provincial conferences, and the branch general meetings which precede them.

Magashule, the most senior of the party leaders who were given 30 days to step aside by the NEC last month, made these moves last week, in a series of letters to regional and provincial secretaries, in a bid to rally his supporters and push back president Cyril Ramaphosa’s faction, which has gained the upper hand at the NEC.

The move appears to be an attempt to hit back at Ramaphosa and his faction in the ANC, a number of whose key members, including Ramaphosa himself, have been implicated in corruption at the Zondo commission and elsewhere, but who have not been charged or arrested. 

In the letter to provincial secretaries on 9 April, Magashule said that a list of all party members who faced charges or corruption allegations should be compiled and sent to his office.

“Provinces are requested to submit, by Thursday, 15 April, 2021, the names of those members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes and those who are alleged, reported or implicated in corrupt practises. Provinces must provide details of whether affected comrades have been informed personally, in writing,” Magashule said.

Magashule — who has vigorously opposed the implementation of the step-aside rule, adopted by the NEC last year and confirmed at subsequent meetings —  appears to have added those facing allegations of corruption to the list of those who should be censured.

The actual ANC resolution refers only to those who are facing serious charges, including corruption, and not members against whom allegations have been levelled,

The NEC meeting gave all members charged with corruption 30 days to step aside, after which they would be suspended. It also banned the party’s radical economic transformation (RET) faction, led by Magashule, from organising within party structures or using ANC resources or facilities for its activities.

In a second letter to all  provincial and regional secretaries on April 9, sent out as part of the preparations for the branch general meetings and regional and provincial conferences, Magashule said no structures should be collapsed ahead of the BGMs and conferences.

“We wish to remind you, once more about the decisions of the previous NECs [national executive committee] from 2018 to date, that no structures must be disbanded or dissolved.”

The meetings — which started at the weekend — will elect new leaders and nominate delegates to attend regional and provincial conferences and nominees for the leadership posts at regional and provincial level.

Magashule, who was given 30 days by the last NEC meeting to step aside from his party post over corruption charges, aims to stop the dissolution of branches supporting his faction in North West, Free State and other provinces ahead of the conferences.

The interim provincial committee (IPC) running North West has disbanded its regions and has started a process of disbanding branches ahead of the regional and provincial conferences.

The bulk of the branches support Magashule and his ally, former North West chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, who has come under fire from the interim provincial committee for allegedly running parallel structures and for orchestrating a campaign to force the committee out of office.

It also comes in response to the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that the 2018 Free State conference, which saw Magashule’s supporters make a clean sweep in the provincial executive committee elections, was unlawful.

The party leadership is still considering how to deal with the situation in the Free State — Magashule’s strongest support base where he served several terms as premier and ANC chairperson. 

The national leadership is understood to favour collapsing the provincial executive committee (PEC) and replacing it with a joint task team to run the ANC in the province until a new leadership is elected.

The PEC wants to appeal the ruling, but has been told not to do so by the ANC top six, while branches in the province backing the faction led by former MEC Mxolisi Dukwana want the order enforced immediately.

In a letter to ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte at the weekend, the party’s Joe Khambule (Ward 31 or Thabong) branch leadership asked that the provincial executive committee be prevented from appealing the ruling. Branch secretary Pule Maile said the branch wanted the leadership to respect the court ruling.

“The ANC in the Free State has been divided for far too long. Credible comrades have been marginalised and engagement has been stifled. The supreme court of appeal judgment will help the ANC in the Free State to unite and work towards the development of communities at large,” he said.

Magashule’s faction has consistently argued that their leaders — including former president Jacob Zuma, former eThekwini chairperson and mayor Zandile Gumede and Magashule — are the targets of selective, politically motivated prosecutions by the state security machinery.