ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule plans to tell party elders that he is being removed from his position in order to clear the way to re-election for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is expected to seek a second term next year.
Sources close to Magashule said he is going to argue that the step-aside rule — in terms of which he must vacate his office by the end of April — is being “selectively” implemented to target him and Ramaphosa’s other opponents, even though many ANC leaders face allegations of wrongdoing.
As Magashule mounts a fight for his political life, he will say that the intention is to prevent him from playing any role in party processes leading up to next year’s elective national conference.
The party’s NEC decided at a heated meeting on Monday that party leaders facing criminal prosecution — as Magashule is — be given 30 days to step aside for the good of the party.
Magashule and Ramaphosa are expected to be on opposing sides when the ANC elects new leaders next year. As secretary-general, Magashule is in charge of the audit process that determines which branches are in good standing and can participate in elections.
His removal from this process will deal a blow to the anti-Ramaphosa campaign.
Magashule is scheduled to meet former treasurer-general Mathews Phosa this week. He also intends to meet former presidents Jacob Zuma, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe.
In those meetings Magashule plans to point out that party resolutions on the stepaside matter also seek action against those facing allegations of corruption but who are yet to be charged, and those accused of vote buying. This is in reference to claims that Ramaphosa used cash incentives to secure his win at the 2017 Nasrec conference.
According to the so-called Nasrec resolutions, such allegations must be investigated by the party. Magashule’s allies have been pushing for an investigation into the sealed bank statements of Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign, which show who donated to the campaign and how the money was distributed.
Talking to journalists during an impromptu tree-planting event in Soweto on Wednesday, Magashule hinted that his view is that the resolutions should be implemented in their entirety.
“The organisation has decided. It has taken its decision in line with Nasrec resolutions. I support Nasrec resolutions,” he said.
Magashule will argue that this week’s NEC decision tempers the Nasrec resolutions — and that if the party takes action against those who have been charged, it must also move against those accused of buying votes, and those accused of corruption but not yet charged.
“If these resolutions are implemented as they are, there will be no national official left at Luthuli House,” said an insider close to Magashule.
The NEC empowered national officials to issue suspension letters to those who fail to voluntarily vacate office.
The NEC meeting on Monday decided that “all members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days”.
“The meeting emphasised that the 30-day period will be to enable the implementation of the decision in line with the guidelines, not to review the decision,” said Ramaphosa, who read out a party statement on the new rule.
In his meetings with party elders, Magashule “is going to raise the matter of selective arrests. Allegations of Bosasa have been made in the commission but only Vincent Smith and [Angelo] Agrizzi have been arrested. Ace was arrested and rushed to court when there was no indictment,” said the insider.
Magashule was not available for comment. Phosa declined to comment.
A Magashule ally told the Sunday Times they wanted to convince the secretary-general not to step aside, to force the ANC to institute a disciplinary hearing. At this hearing, he said, Magashule could show the party that his charges were nothing compared to those made against leaders who are not being asked to step aside.
“We can compare offences,” the insider said.
“SG is charged for raising money for the needy students and that money never went to his personal account, it went straight to pay those institutions. So how do you come to a conclusion if those things are flimsy, to say that man is guilty?”
He said his supporters firmly believed that if Magashule’s opponents wanted to deal with him they should call for an early elective conference.
He accused Ramaphosa of using scare tactics to get the NEC to vote for the step-aside rule by brandishing the possibility of a reshuffle.
He said Magashule’s allies would use the relaunch of party branches to mobilise party members to back the secretary-general. “Obviously branches are not going to agree with this thing of step aside, there’s going to be a counter motion that is going to come …”
The so-called radical economic transformation forces, under the leadership of Magashule’s staunch supporter, Carl Niehaus, had planned to hold a meeting today to discuss the outcome of the NEC meeting.
However, the meeting was called off on Thursday night after the ANC regional executive committee warned its members against participating in such a meeting.
ANC Johannesburg regional secretary Dada Morero said the group’s sole mandate is to “undermine the ANC’s efforts for unity and renewal”.
“The ANC would like to send a strong message to the individuals involved in organising this meeting: such behaviour shall not be tolerated and is void of political maturity, especially after the highest decision-making body of the ANC, the national executive committee, called on ANC members to disassociate themselves from the socalled ‘RET’ forces and all its factional groupings.
“We call on all ANC members not to attend this meeting and to assist us in identifying the conveners of this meeting and those who will be attending,” said Morero. Attendance at the meeting would be met with disciplinary action, he said.
On Friday, Niehaus issued a statement as the “Gauteng RET President Zuma Support Group”, announcing the cancellation of the meeting.
“Unfortunately, the meeting was deliberately and wrongly construed by some as a factional meeting that will be in contravention of the decisions of the NEC. Since that perception has been created, the meeting will no longer go ahead,” he said.
Party leaders said should Magashule stall and not leave office, the national officials will write a letter of suspension. “The president was clear. He is going to be suspended. The officials will have to send a letter suspending him. It will have to come from Jessie’s [deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte] office,” said the party leader.
Duarte was not available for comment. Party national chair Gwede Mantashe said the NEC will delegate structures to enforce the suspensions. He declined to comment further.
Magashule made a public appearance on Wednesday in Naledi, Soweto, with a handful of supporters in a poorly organised event at which he was meant to plant trees in a few parks and private gardens.
He put on a brave face as he interacted with a mob of journalists who wanted to know whether he would step down. “What stress, what is stress about … Have you seen me stress?” said Magashule as he was asked about stepping aside.
“You can see, I am Ace Magashule, I am an ANC member, I am secretarygeneral, what else do you want?” said a smiling Magashule.
He expressed his support for the NEC decision on stepping aside.