Suspended ANC secretary general Ace Magashule defied KwaZulu-Natal’s provincial leaders by speaking to Jacob Zuma’s supporters after the former president appeared in court on Monday despite an agreement not to do so. By doing so he also broke his suspension orders.
Zuma appeared in the high court in Pietermaritzburg on the first day of his trial for corruption and fraud charges related to the arms deal procurement in the late 1990s.
ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli told the Mail & Guardian that the provincial leadership had advised Magashule against addressing supporters.
“There is a position of the provincial executive committee to have ANC KwaZulu-Natal leaders attending the court case. This position was also reported to and endorsed by our national leadership,” he said.
“Clearly, we were convinced that given the current challenges faced by the SG [secretary general] it would be inappropriate for him to also address an ANC platform as a matter of principle. We comradely gave the advice to the SG and he made his choice to proceed and address.”
A party provincial leader, who attended Zuma’s court appearance, said Ntuli and provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala spoke to Magashule and called on him not to divide the ANC in the province.
“The request by comrade Ntuli and Zikalala was very clear. They had a meeting with him and he agreed that he would not address the crowd. It was a surprise to us when Tony Yengeni gave him the microphone. Ntuli will take this matter up with the national officials,” the provincial leader said.
In what has become a trend, party leaders who are allies of Zuma, came to support him in what is perceived as a way of showing political force.
National executive committee member Yengeni, Magashule, suspended NEC member Bongani Bongo, Carl Niehaus of the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association, and former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo were some of the party leaders who came out to support him.
The ANC’s provincial leadership had permission from the top officials to attend the court case. This, they said, was a strategy for the ANC in the province to control the narrative of Zuma’s court appearance away from the “radical” economic transformation faction.
This strategy was thwarted when Yengeni insisted that Magashule address supporters.
Yengeni said: “We are going to take these people inside the ANC, toe to toe. We fear no one. Comrades must disabuse themselves that when they speak we shiver. We are not afraid.”
Magashule told supporters that nobody can ban or remove him from the ANC. He then said he would bring the whole might of the Free State to Zuma’s next court appearance on May 26.
Ntuli said the provincial leadership was concerned about Magashule’s plan to mobilise members in the Free State “to descend to Pietermaritzburg next week in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and possibly a third wave” .
Magashule was suspended earlier this month pending his own court case. The secretary general is facing charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering in connection with the asbestos project in the Free State. He was ordered not to make public pronouncements on matters related to the organisation.
He was also warned not to mobilise ANC structures or any individuals or organisations on any issue, including his suspension and the instruction to step aside.
In a notice of a motion Magashule said he would bring an application asking that the ANC’s step-aside resolution be declared “unlawful, unconstitutional, invalid and null”.
He also wants the court to lift his suspension as secretary general and restore all his rights in the party that he held until 5 May — the date when the letter of suspension was served on him.