President Cyril Ramaphosa has won the “unequivocal” backing of the rest of the ANC top six for secretary-general Ace Magashule to “immediately” step aside pending the outcome of his fraud and corruption case.
Business Day reported that this was the response of the other five officials when Magashule informed them on Sunday night that he would not voluntarily vacate office, despite a national executive committee ruling that those facing criminal charges must step aside or face suspension.
The meeting adjourned after 10pm on Sunday and resumed on Monday. The top six are Ramaphosa, his deputy David Mabuza, national chair Gwede Mantashe, Magashule, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and treasurer Paul Mashatile.
The backing from the top officials cements Ramaphosa’s influence in the party, which was brought into question by some who felt he did not have sufficient internal support to remove the secretary-general. Magashule has been Ramaphosa’s main rival, with those aligned to former president Jacob Zuma coalescing around him after Ramaphosa narrowly won the ANC presidency in December 2017. The outcome will also go a long way towards determining the success of Ramaphosa’s efforts to clean up the party’s image.
Last week, Ramaphosa was subjected to two days of questioning at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture over the ANC’s record on corruption, especially under Zuma, which Ramaphosa has described as “wasted years”. Testifying in his capacity as party president, Ramaphosa said the perception that it is corrupt has cost the ANC electoral support.
Magashule is facing charges for alleged involvement in fraud and corruption related to a R255m asbestos project in the Free State when he was premier. If he remains steadfast in his approach, the meeting of the national executive committee (NEC), the highest decisionmaking body of the ANC between conferences, scheduled for this weekend, has the
power to suspend him. Still unclear is how much turmoil in the party his continued defiance, said to have Zuma’s support, will provide fuel for.
Late in March, the NEC gave Magashule, the most powerful leader at the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, 30 days to voluntarily step aside. His faction attempted to disrupt that meeting as it was unhappy with the initial seven-day period Magashule was given.
They are expected to do the same this weekend, with some in the ANC suggesting the party should reinstate physical meetings to deal with disruptions and also the leaking of audio recording from sensitive meetings.
Magashule met former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe on Friday as part of his consultation process with past leaders. While Mbeki and Motlanthe urged Magashule to relinquish office, Zuma is believed to back a defiance campaign. Also at the weekend, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande said at a Cosatu rally that the party welcomed the latest decisions and actions taken by the ANC to deal with corruption and factionalism within its ranks.
“The SACP, Cosatu and all the democratic forces must unite in support of the decisive stance by the ANC to deal with corruption.
“However, at the same time we must remain vigilant that those who find themselves in a corner do not try to weaponise the struggle against corruption to manufacture lies and baseless allegations as part of their fightback strategy. Such tactics are used to try and undermine the determination of the ANC to implement its resolutions.”
– Business Daily