/ 28 April 2021

No escape from the step-aside deadline, says Mantashe

Hold the line: Minister Gwede Mantashe
As ANC secretary general Ace Magashule mulls over his options, the party’s national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, drew a line in the sand — there is no turning back from ruling that corruption charged politicians step aside by month's end. (Delwyn Verasamy)

As ANC secretary general Ace Magashule mulls over his options, the party’s national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, drew a line in the sand — there is no turning back from ruling that corruption charged politicians step aside by month’s end. 

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian on Monday, Mantashe spoke candidly about ANC matters — including some party leaders calling for the party’s top six and it’s national executive committee (NEC) to reconsider implementing the step-aside resolution because, they said, it would plunge the party into chaos. 

“At the end of that period people are expected to resign, if not, the resolution is quite clear [that] the organisation can suspend any of them and then start a process. It’s not them who start a process beyond that date, it is the organisation which starts a process,” said Mantashe. 

“Stepping aside is an act that reflects your consciousness and your awareness that it’s important to protect the ANC because this step-aside is not a punishment. It’s about you giving space to the ANC to actually recoup the lost ground in its reputational standing. When you do, you do that consciously on your own. When you are consciously not wanting to do that, you have taken a decision that the ANC is not that important, it can sink it. Only at that point the ANC says, ‘OK right, because you are not giving a reputable explanation, you don’t want to step aside, we are suspending you’,” he said. 

In March the NEC, the party’s highest decision-making body, resolved that all those charged with crimes should step aside before May 1 or face suspension. Magashule’s office and those of provincial secretaries were instructed to correspond with party leaders affected by the decision.

As the deadline nears, leaders, most notably those close to Magashule — such as former North West chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, Ekurhuleni chairperson Mzwandile Masina, NEC members Tony Yengeni and Dakota Legoete, Ekurhuleni regional secretary TK Nciza, Mpumalanga secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali and Andile Lungisa from the Eastern Cape — have been lobbying branches to challenge the implementation of the resolution. 

The ANC Youth League in Limpopo has called for the NEC to allow the branches to formally discuss the guidelines at the national general council before implementing them.

Mantashe views this as a “blackmail argument”, saying that when party leaders make these statements, they are “applying for action against yourself because you say the NEC must not do what it was appointed to do”. 

On Sunday, Mahumapelo addressed a branch meeting in Delareyville in North West where he said parts of the step-aside resolution flouted the Constitution and laws. 

The former North West leader, who has been temporarily suspended and charged with misconduct, asked branches to challenge parts of the resolution and that they must call for the step-aside ruling to be suspended until the next conference. 

He also said the party’s leaders should have “a political engagement” with those charged so there is peace in the ANC. 

Mantashe called this stance “convenient”, saying that Mahumapelo was interpreting the resolution as an attack on Magashule. “In Nasrec [the national conference in December 2017] there was no Ace case. The conference took the resolution.  

“That is not helpful to the ANC. Step aside is not a judgment of guilt or not guilty. It is about the reputation of the ANC. If your actions impact the ANC negatively, you should be asked to step aside or you choose yourself to step aside without being asked. Because the ANC is more important than you as an individual. Supra was being very convenient.”

Mantashe also called out a decision by Magashule to seek legal advice from the  Economic Freedom Fighters advocate, Dali Mpofu, as a “dangerous” act of “desperation”. 

“Wanting advice from a person who is a chair of the EFF in itself shows you the intention,” he said. 

Mpofu said the step-aside resolution would not pass the threshold of lawfulness and constitutionality and infringed on party members’ rights. He was among five legal people who gave the top six advice on the lawfulness of the step-aside resolution. 

Mantashe said: “You can ask for a legal opinion but to go to your political opponents and say you are looking for a legal opinion is just an act of desperation and very dangerous…. Once you appeal to court cases you must know at that time you are actually undermining your membership. You want to be a legal entity and not a member.”