Source: Business Day

Ace Magashule launches bid to save his political career

ANC secretary-general mobilises support within the ruling party for an apparent revolt over the party’s step-aside decision

 BL PREMIUM13 APRIL 2021 – 21:37 HAJRA OMARJEEANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

In a desperate bid to stay in office, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule is mobilising support within the ruling party for an apparent revolt over the party’s decision that those  facing criminal charges be given 30 days to step aside or face being suspended.

Business Day understands Magashule’s supporters, including national executive committee (NEC) member Tony Yengeni, launched an attack against the decision during a meeting of the party’s national working committee (NWC), whose members include the party’s top six officials, on Monday.

Also, Magashule seems to have single-handedly widened the scope of those who will be affected by the party’s step-aside resolution, implying in a letter to provincial secretaries that it applied to a wider group of officials.

In the letter, dated April 9,  Magashule gives provincial secretaries a deadline to send to the names of those who will have to vacate their positions, in an apparent effort to win support for himself by demonstrating what could happen to others in the same predicament. In another letter, dated April 7, Magashule urges ANC branches to get their house in order ahead of general meetings to elect new leadership.

Late in March, at the end of a meeting of the NEC, the ANC’s highest decision-making body between conferences, the so-called reformists in the party who are aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anticorruption agenda seemed to have won a decisive victory with a decision that the party’s step-aside rule must be implemented in line with the procedures adopted at its last meeting in February.

Magashule, an ally of former president Jacob Zuma, was seen to be the biggest loser as this implied he would need to vacate his office by the end of April due to fraud and corruption charges linked to an asbestos project in the Free State when he was premier.

In his letter to provincial secretaries, Magashule asked not just for names of officials who face formal charges, like himself, but also those who have just allegations hanging over them, something that could create panic and undermine support for the step-aside rule.

In a sign of the divisions in the party and the ramping up of factional battles, an audio of deputy secretary-general Jesse Duarte pledging support to Zuma and attacking the judiciary was leaked on social media. She hit out at chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and his deputy Raymond Zondo, who is also the chair of the state capture inquiry. For Zuma’s supporters, Duarte’s comments can be used as evidence that he enjoys backing within the party, whereas Ramaphosa and the NEC have given the impression that the ANC is united in its stand in favour of the judiciary.

“Provinces are requested to submit, by April 15, the names of those members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes and those who are alleged, reported to be or implicated in corrupt activities. Provinces must provide details of whether affected comrades have been personally informed in writing,” Magashule said in the April 9 letter.

Meanwhile, as the Constitutional Court considers whether to send Zuma to jail for failing to adhere to an order to appear at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, Duarte was heard in the recording as saying he should not appear before Zondo. This is believed to be a partial audio clip of last month’s virtual meeting between Zuma and the ANC top six.

Duarte also criticised Mogoeng over his recent remarks about Israel, which landed him in trouble with the Judicial Conduct Committee, saying he “behaves as if he has no understanding of the constitution of the republic of SA.”