The ANC’s national working committee (NWC) has contradicted a letter by the party’s secretary-general Ace Magashule who attempted to widen the scope of those who will be affected by the party’s step-aside resolution.
The NWC, which met on Monday, released a statement reiterating that only those who are facing corruption charges or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days or face suspension.
Magashule last week tried to broaden the step-aside scope by telling provincial secretaries to not only send names of those formally charged but also those who are not charged but are facing allegations or are said to have been implicated in corruption. He said they must send this list by close of business on Thursday.
The NWC has, however, said in a statement that only those who are formally charged must step aside. The NWC is tasked with day-to-day running of the ANC on behalf of the party's highest decision-making body between conferences.
“The NWC recalled the decision of the NEC on 26—29 March 2021 that all members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days, failing which they should be suspended in terms of Rule 25.70 of the ANC constitution,” the statement read.
The statement went further to say the NWC had noted the letter by Magashule giving them Thursday as their deadline to send the names of those affected but went on to reiterate that it should be of those who have been formally charged.
“The NWC noted that provinces have been requested to submit, by Thursday, 15 April 2021, the names of those members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes. Provinces have also been requested to inform affected members of the decision of the NEC,” the statement read.
Magashule’s letter widening the scope of those affected has been seen as somewhat of a fight back as he is directly affected. Magashule is under pressure to step aside from his powerful position as he faces criminal charges. He has started consulting with past ANC leaders ahead of the step-aside deadline.
Magashule is facing criminal charges in the Bloemfontein high court dating back to his tenure as Free State premier. His instruction to the provincial secretaries is in clear contrast with the decision taken last month by the party’s highest decision-making body, the NEC, which limited affected parties to those who have been formally charged.
In a statement delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the NEC gave those who are facing criminal charges 30 days to step aside, failing which they would be suspended. “All members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days, failing which they should be suspended in terms of rule 25.70 of the ANC constitution,” Ramaphosa said at the time.
The decision by the NEC to limit the step-aside rule to those who have been formally charged was based on the guidelines formulated by a team led by treasurer-general Paul Mashatile, former president Kgalema Motlanthe and former treasurer-general Mathews Phosa. The three relied on legal advice that it would be difficult to implement the decision on those who are merely facing accusations.
This came as party leaders, including deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, had raised concerns about how political opponents could use the rule for nefarious reasons. Duarte said adding allegations or reports as part of reasons to have someone step aside was dangerous as politicians could use allegations to deal with their opponents.
It appears, in his letter to the provincial secretaries, Magashule focused solely on the resolutions taken at the party's 54th national conference and not on decisions made by the NEC. At the conference the ANC decided that the step-aside rule should affect even those who are facing allegations of corruption.