The ANC cast a defiant Ace Magashule into the political wilderness yesterday when its national executive committee (NEC) kicked him out of its virtual meeting, effectively confirming his suspension from the secretary-general position.
ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe and NEC member Mondli Gungubele are said to have led the charge against Magashule.
The NEC decision was a major blow to Magashule, who had attended the meeting hoping his backers would convince the party’s highest decision-making body that his appeal meant the suspension was not yet in force.
This makes it clear that Magashule has been removed from office and will not perform any of his duties as secretary-general pending his appeal.
Magashule’s absence from Luthuli House will weaken the anti-Ramaphosa faction in the ANC, as he had become the face of that movement. This will, in turn, strengthen President Cyril Ramaphosa’s grip on the party and it is seen as a major victory for the president’s crusade to clean up the ANC.
In his political overview Ramaphosa defended ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte from attacks, saying she was mandated by the party’s national working committee to issue a suspension letter to Magashule.
“The president said the national working committee, as it is empowered to do in terms of rule 13 of the ANC constitution, decided on May 3 … to give effect to the decision of the NEC and requested the deputy secretarygeneral to give effect to the decision of the NEC on stepping aside,” said a source.
“He said it is therefore incorrect to portray the proper execution of administrative procedures as being unusual or malicious. This is a difficult period for our organisation and it is in times of difficulty that we must unite,” added the source.
Insiders said Mantashe, who was chairing yesterday’s online meeting, was the first to object to Magashule’s presence.
“I see comrade SG [secretary-general] is here and he should not be here because he’s suspended,” Mantashe is said by sources to have told the meeting.
Magashule is said to have responded: “I have appealed, comrade.”
Another staunch backer of Ramaphosa, former Ekurhuleni mayor Gungubele is said to have insisted that Magashule leave the meeting — objecting to his presence three times. Gungubele is said to have told the meeting that it could not continue because Magashule’s presence meant it was not properly constituted.
“Mondli said I don’t think we are supposed to continue this meeting with a suspended member whose appeal has not been processed in a particular way. Office bearers or working committee are supposed to be tabling that appeal in this meeting. He said under the current circumstances, the SG is suspended. It is actually defective for us to continue with him in this meeting, otherwise we will be inconsistent with the principles of the organisation,” a source said.
Insiders said Magashule was defended by some of his backers, including Dakota Legoete, Tony Yengeni and Tandi Mahambehlala.
As the meeting grew more and more heated, Legoete is said to have warned that it was important not to flout the ANC constitution by excluding Magashule. He relied on section 25.43 of the ANC constitution, which stipulates that “any member who has appealed, that member’s status remains active until the relevant committees have concluded on the matter”.
But insiders said Mantashe ended the 45minute discussion by quoting another section of the same rule book — 25.45 — which states that during the period of suspension, a member shall be precluded from exercising any right in terms of the constitution, save to prosecute his or her appeal or review application.
“In terms of that constitutional provision
therefore, anybody who is suspended is precluded from being part of this meeting. He has a right to pursue his appeal or review application and will be present every time that is being [discussed],” Mantashe was quoted by sources as having said.
Magashule remained defiant yesterday, telling the Sunday Times that he is still the secretary-general of the ANC. He said his removal from the meeting was “unfortunate and unorganisational”.
“What do you do when you have appealed and your appeal is just noted? That is why I think people avoided the physical meeting because they wanted to abuse the virtual meeting. What do you do when people just press the button and say we have taken a decision?”
Magashule said he had lodged an appeal but had no faith in the internal ANC process. “There will never be a fair hearing when the judge and the evidence leader is the same NEC. This is my last attempt at exhausting internal processes.”
He said he would consult ANC structures about what action to take next.
But insiders said this is the end of the road for Magashule.
“This effectively confirms his suspension,” said a member of the NEC who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorised to speak on the matter.
“We made it clear in that meeting that his letter suspending the president was a non-starter. The matter had no endorsement from any party structure, so how dare he?”
The ANC insider said that not a single provincial structure came out in support of Magashule as he was booted out of the NEC meeting.
This was despite Magashule claiming on Friday that he enjoyed the backing of his home province of the Free State, as well as Limpopo and Mpumalanga, among others.
“No province spoke on the matter. Even the women’s league abandoned him. All provinces kept quiet when his matter came up and it tells you that they support the suspension,” the NEC member said.
Despite Magashule having told the SABC on Friday that he still commands support in the ANC, it became clear in yesterday’s meeting that he has lost friends in the ANC NEC.
Yesterday the ANC Women’s League distanced itself from Magashule, issuing a statement to say that it does not support any individual leader in the ANC “but stands to reaffirm the entire collective leadership of the ANC and our confidence in them to deliver a better life for all especially women and other marginalised groupings”.
“The ANCWL chooses the ANC above all divisions in the movement. We refuse to be drawn in the differences of ANC men who don’t care about the future of the liberation movement,” the league said.
The statement was issued after the leagues’s own NEC meeting, where attempts to lobby for support for Magashule were reportedly defeated.
League president Bathabile Dlamini, a known Magashule ally, conveyed the same message at yesterday’s ANC NEC meeting.
Sources said the meeting was heated from the outset, with members questioning Magashule’s presence while others raised concerns about the meeting being held on a virtual platform.
Mantashe had his hands full as NEC members, including former Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle and human settlements minister Lindiwe Sisulu, questioned the use of a virtual platform when at its last meeting the NEC had apparently decided meetings should be held in person to end the leaking of audio recordings.
Defence minister Nosiviwe MapisaNqakula said she was concerned because NEC meetings were being livestreamed to the world.
Sources said Magashule’s supporters, including Sisulu, Yengeni and Mahambehlala attempted to stop the NEC meeting from proceeding.
“They were trying every trick to force a postponement of the meeting so they could re-group, you could tell this was their caucused strategy. It was all orchestrated,” said a source who was present in the meeting.
But this was rejected by Mantashe and Duarte.
Sources also indicated that Legoete received a tongue-lashing in the NEC after he accused Ramaphosa of being the leader of a faction instead of the ANC as an organisation. “We dealt with that one, people told him he was completely out of order. Such an accusation against a serving president is unwarranted,” said the source.
But the most scathing attack was reserved for Magashule when ANC veteran Firoz Cachalia spoke. “Cachalia said he is deeply concerned by the behaviour of the suspended SG. All the decisions have been defied by the suspended SG. That he didn’t remember the ANC having an SG who is this disruptive. He said the SG’s argument that he is entitled to be in the meeting because he has an appeal was a completely flawed argument,” said an insider.
Magashule this week officially lodged his appeal challenging his suspension by Duarte.
In a letter to the chair of the national disciplinary committee, Mildred Oliphant, dated May 5 2021, Magashule contends that the decision to suspend him did not follow the appropriate processes.
Magashule also seems to argue that his suspension relates to an Integrity Commission report leaked in December that recommended he step down immediately and not as per the stepaside guidelines, which call for all members charged in a court of law to step aside from their positions.
He asks that the disciplinary committee review the report and set aside his suspension.
Magashule also asks that the disciplinary committee not proceed with his disciplinary action.
He argues the party did not move with speed to handle his disciplinary process as required by the ANC constitution.
And he says that he has not received his charge sheet, which he says is a “clear violation of the expeditious prosecution of disciplinary proceedings under rule 25.48 to rule 25.55” of the party’s constitution.
“In effect I have been suspended, ostensibly in contemplation of misconduct on grounds that the ANC was aware of for a period well in excess of six months,” Magashule says in his letter. He accuses the national disciplinary committee of “unreasonably” delaying his disciplinary process.
Magashule further accuses Duarte of suspending him without giving him an opportunity to make representations.