The ANC is edging closer to making a final decision on its “step-aside” policy after a committee of ANC veterans, led by former treasurer-general Mathews Phosa and former president Kgalema Motlanthe, reports back to Luthuli House after being tasked to assist the top six with working out the guidelines for the implementation of the contentious policy regarding ANC members who face criminal charges.
At least two meetings of the national executive committee (NEC) have ended with members divided.
The revelations come as the NEC meeting this weekend – that was expected to grapple with the future of corruption-accused ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule – was abruptly rescheduled to next month, further dragging out the finalisation and implementation of the step-aside resolution agreed to at the party's 2017 national conference.
Last month, the ANC's top six officials, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, were given the responsibility to develop the guidelines that would enable the implementation of the resolution after Magashule, who faces criminal charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering, had taken the position that only the ANC branches who elected him into office were empowered to boot him out.
ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile has been mentioned as the convenor of the committee of veterans, which started its work late last month, and should be reporting back its recommendations by the beginning of this week.
On Monday, the ANC national working committee (NWC) heard for the first time that the process to finalise the guidelines was in the hands of the elders, and insisted that a report should be ready by Friday morning, given that the NEC meeting had been scheduled for later on that day.
The NWC prepares the agenda for the high-powered NEC, but the scheduled meeting was postponed until next month, which gives the veterans a little more time to finalise their recommendations when they met again later on Friday.
As the only lawyer in a committee of veterans, which includes Thenjiwe Mtintso, Josiah Jele and Dipuo Peters, Phosa is expected to play a critical role in the formulation of the guidelines, especially given that Ramaphosa was taking a cautious approach as he was wary of any dispute on the legality of the resolution being taken to the courts and the ANC found wanting, City Press has learnt.
Phosa was also one of several lawyers who last year provided the ANC with a legal opinion on the implications of the anti-corruption resolution, and his views were that it would be "unlawful" to force a member to step aside unless there was a "duly processed" amendment of the ANC constitution to enable such a decision.
"None of the resolutions, statements and policy postures have the legal effect of creating a sui generis [unique] stand-alone process for suspending a member under the circumstances currently being experienced," Phosa submitted in his legal opinion.
The ANC's constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority vote at the national conference to pass, which meant that the ANC could possibly have to wait until its next meeting of branch delegates before the step-aside resolution could be given effect, according to Phosa’s interpretation.
Mashatile was mentioned as one of the top six members who was sympathetic to Magashule, alongside Deputy President David Mabuza and deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte.
However, a person close to Mashatile disagreed, saying then that his views were only that 'there should be fairness', and an agreed process should be followed to determine how best to deal with Magashule's case, because "whatever decision that would be taken would be precedent".
The NWC meeting on Monday heard that the matter of Magashule stepping aside was as simple as popular radio deejays Thato 'DJ Fresh'Sikwane and Themba 'Euphonik' Nkosi, who were taken off the air by the owners of the radio station, Primedia Broadcasting, to focus on addressing the rape allegations against them.
The duo will be receiving their salaries during their time away.
According to those who attended the meeting, the comment that even deejays were setting a better example than the ANC was met with 'silence'.
They are complicating this thing. If you break the rules anywhere, then we deal with you immediately
A person in the Ramaphosa camp Proponents of the view that Magashule should step down because the allegations against him were damaging the reputation of the ANC also argued that there was no need for guidelines to be developed because the practice of people stepping aside when implicated in wrongdoing was common and 'the ANC is unlikely to lose such a case in court'
A person in the Ramaphosa camp – which has been accused of targeting Magashule and using the resolution to stage a 'coup' said they trusted him to expedite the guidelines matter with the necessary speed, and they were frustrated that he appeared to be dilly-dallying.
"They are complicating this thing. If you break the rules anywhere, then we deal with you immediately."We trust Ramaphosa. We know that he has got goodwill and he wants to fix the ANC. He does not want an ANC full of rogues.
Integrity commission won't save the ANC"The rogues are in a corner and, you know when a dog is in a corner, it looks at all alternatives of pushing away. I don't know how long they are going to be ducking and diving with this matter."
The person warned that the ANC would have difficulty explaining its stance on corruption to voters ahead of the local government elections later this year.
It is a serious matter that affects the most important person in the organisation, but no one said he must be involved in malfeasance Person in the Ramaphosa camp
"If we do not deal with this matter, we must know that the people's patience is not endless.
"It is a serious matter that affects the most important person in the organisation, but no one said he must be involved in malfeasance."
Magashule, who appeared in court for the first time in November together with 12 other accused, faces 21 counts of fraud, corruption and money laundering.
The case relates to the allegations of an asbestos housing looting scheme in the Free State at the time when he was the premier and before he moved to Luthuli House.
His detractors have rejected the defence that, as premier, he was not involved in the project. "A person cannot say that the MEC got involved in corruption and he was not aware of it. But he could have heard about it as a premier and he could have taken action. If people steal, it cannot be that they get away with it and nothing happens," said a critic in the NEC.
BINDING ETHICS RECOMMENDATIONS
The integrity commission concluded after a hearing with Magashule that he should step aside. If he refused, disciplinary action would follow.
We are not saying anyone is guilty, but if an individual is tainted, they must step aside and clear their name
The ANC Veterans League was pushing that the recommendations of the integrity commission be binding, because it is not about being guilty or not, but about protecting the image of the organisation"
The integrity commission does not deal with judicial morality, but political morality, said league president Snuki Zikalala.
He said the strengthening of the commission's powers did not need a national conference resolution, but that it was a decision the NEC itself could make."The NEC can include it in the terms of reference. If people have the interest of the organisation at heart, it could fly. It's a question of saying: "Comrade, your utterances in public have dented the image of the organisation, so step down until your name is cleared. It is not that you have been found guilty."
He said there was no point in having an integrity commission if these decisions had no binding effect.
These are old people and they have nothing to lose. Some of them do not even get paid for the work they do. They do it voluntarily in terms of saving the life of the ANC said Zikalala.
The ANC has spoken about 'capacitating' the integrity commission for a long time, which would mean bringing in technical skills, making sure that they have a proper office and a proper secretariat who is well paid, and would generally provide them with the resources that they need to carry out their work. 'These old people use their own data and resources. Their interest is to make sure that the ANC regains credibility in society. That is also the interest of the veterans league. We are not targeting anybody," said Zikalala.
He also said the veterans league was happy now that NEC members do get the integrity commission reports.
'Now we know in advance what the integrity commission has recorded so that, when we go to NEC meetings, we will know what to expect.