/ 13 May 2021

Sorry? I’m not sorry – Ace

Anc Briefs Media After National Executive Committee Meeting
Office politics: ANC general secretary Ace Magashule has rejected deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte’s letter suspending him after he caused chaos in the party. Photo: Sandile Ndlovu/Tiso Blackstar

ANC deputy president DD Mabuza and deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte have each pleaded with suspended secretary general Ace Magashule to apologise to Cyril Ramaphosa for writing a letter of suspension to the president, but he has vehemently refused. 

“Don’t hold your breath,” a close ally of Magashule said when asked whether the secretary general would apologise to the party and Ramaphosa, as instructed by the national executive committee (NEC). 

Insiders close to Magashule say he remains convinced that his suspension is unlawful. 

“He will not apologise to anyone. By doing that it means he is guilty,” one ally said. 

Magashule was told on Monday to apologise to the ANC and to South Africans or face disciplinary action. 

Ramaphosa said the NEC had discussed the letter of suspension written to him by Magashule, adding that the suspended secretary general had no authority or mandate from any ANC structure to write the letter. 

“The NEC agreed that such conduct was completely unacceptable and a flagrant violation of the rules, norms and values of the ANC. The NEC furthermore instructed the officials to advise the secretary general to apologise publicly to ANC structures and members within a set time frame. If he fails to do so, the ANC will institute disciplinary procedures in accordance with the ANC constitution,” Ramaphosa said.

Mabuza and Duarte called Magashule before the NEC meeting convened and pleaded with him to retract his letter to Ramaphosa. 

An NEC member close to the president said: “He wants Ramaphosa to instead apologise to him.” 

Magashule’s defiance has left him with no allies in the party’s top six. A senior party member said Mabuza and Duarte were the last ones left willing to speak for him. 

Magashule was read the riot act for sowing division and chaos in the party. 

In the letter, he also states that Duarte has no power to suspend him and he will appeal the ANC’s decision. 

Magashule confirmed the authenticity of the letter last week. He also maintained that he is still the party’s secretary general. 

Magashule’s allies say that he has now turned to his legal team to subvert the NEC’s directive. He may use one of his allies to go to court, instead of bringing an application himself. The former Free State human settlements MEC and Mangaung metro municipality mayor, Olly Mlamleli, is the most likely candidate to bring the application.

Mlamleli is one of the 15 charged with corruption, fraud and money laundering in the R225-million Free State asbestos project, as is Magashule. 

A Magashule ally and NEC member said: “It’s not over yet. There were a number of people and provinces who have expressed concern over the step-aside resolution and it was clear in this NEC that the party is divided on how to implement this resolution. There is still fear that this resolution might harm the organisation.” 

One of Ramaphosa’s loyal supporters, the ANC’s Northern Cape chairperson, Zamani Saul, also expressed his concern about the step-aside decision during the NEC meeting. 

An ANC source said Saul had told the meeting that the 2017 Nasrec conference might have erred in adopting the resolution.

The NEC soft-pedalled implementing the resolution against former president Jacob Zuma, when he refused an ANC instruction for party leaders to appear before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. 

Party insiders said the ANC’s body elders — the integrity commission — wanted the NEC to take a stand against Zuma and ordered that he appear before them to explain his refusal to appear before the Zondo commission. 

Even though many in the NEC agreed that action needed to be taken regarding Zuma, it appears that now was, as one party insider said, “not the right time”. 

“If we take action against the former president now, we would risk looking like bullies and open ourselves to rebellion in branches. We need to pick our battles. Zuma is not as pressing as Ace. The law will take its course and we don’t need to be seen like we are advancing a strategy to purge people affiliated to Ace,” one party leader said. 

Another NEC member and Ramaphosa ally said that although he believed that Zuma’s defiance of the courts was hurting the ANC’s image, the former president still had enough support in the ANC to sow divisions. 

“Zuma still has pull in many provinces and we can never underestimate his ability to galvanise support and sympathy.” 

The ANC’s officials will continue to talk to Zuma, the NEC member said. 

In a leaked recording, NEC member Malusi Gigaba said although he understood that the party needed to deal with the “fundamental issues” about Zuma’s refusal to participate in the commission, it had to consider Zuma’s rights. 

“I don’t know if the ANC can broker an agreement with regard to that deadlock. I think it would be amiss of us to comment on only one side of what is quite seriously a very involved issue, which pertains to the rights of an individual as enshrined in the bill of rights of the Constitution to which we all profess loyalty … I plead for political engagement and patience on this matter,” Gigaba said.

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The Zondo commission has heard that Gigaba often visited the Guptas’ Saxonwold home and that he saw the brothers as his advisers when he was a cabinet minister. His estranged wife, Norma Mngoma, corroborated earlier testimony that her husband collected cash from the Guptas home, the Mail & Guardian reported in April. She said he filled her in on his discussions with Ajay Gupta about Transnet, Eskom and SAA. 

About 40 members of the ANC are understood to be affected by the decision to implement the step-aside resolution.

On Tuesday Duarte said the NEC would instruct provincial leaders on how to proceed.

Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and 11 other ANC members had not stepped aside by the time of publication. Only the ANC KwaZulu-Natal deputy chairperson, Mike Mabuyakhulu, had done so.

Ntando Khuzwayo, the spokesperson for the eThekwini branches backing Gumede, said Gumede had appeared before the integrity commission and had been cleared. 

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The KwaZulu-Natal provincial leadership will only act against individual members on its list once it has received instructions to do so from the NEC.

The impending suspension of Gumede has not stopped branches from nominating her to stand as chairperson at the regional conference at month end. Seven eThekwini branches nominated Gumede at the branch general meetings convened ahead of the conference.

Duarte said that should a charged person be nominated and successfully elected, they would be asked to stand down.

Although a call for a day of protest on Monday, 17 May, to coincide with Zuma’s court appearance on corruption charges, has been made on social media by “RET Forces”, Khuzwayo said eThekwini would not participate in any shutdown.

“We have voiced our concerns this week. That is it for now,” he said.

It is not clear which ANC structures — if any — will participate in the shutdown.