The ANC’s top dogs in its National Executive Committee (NEC) drew a line in the sand on Tuesday: those accused of corruption or serious crimes must step aside within 30 days or be suspended. This is a victory for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who managed to sway the 86-member NEC in a torturous weekend meeting, after months of intense internal factional battles. The step aside rule has preoccupied the ruling party – and dominated political news – since last year. It’s not new – it was first approved at the NEC conference in 2017 – but resurfaced last August as public pressure increased on the party to take action against compromised leaders. There are many of these, all who have defied the rule, but the star of the show is ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
Magashule’s list of alleged crimes is long, but he’s been charged and briefly arrested related to a dodgy R255 million asbestos deal when he was Free State Premier. The contract failed to remove the damaging substance from Free State homes. 😠 Instead the costs were VASTLY inflated, allegedly funneling cuts to Magashule’s cronies. (The good news is that the Hawks were quick to seize and freeze assets of many of those accused.)
So, with the verdict out, will Ace play the game? Unlikely. In an analysis for the Daily Maverick, Stephen Grootes wrote that: “Magashule is likely to refuse to step aside. That will lead to a process of suspension. And he is likely to challenge that in court. This would create a situation in which the legal representative of the ANC, the secretary-general, is taken to court by the secretary-general of the ANC. It would look like legal nonsense, which may well be Magashule’s aim.”
Magashule has also said he’ll be “seeking counsel” from previous party leaders in this time. Read: Jacob Zuma, as the likes of Thabo Mbeki have already made their disdain clear. (Watch our video looking at how Mbeki honoured this rule on our Youtube channel: explainza.)
Ramaphosa made it clear in reading the decision that it was final. But a month is a long time.
At this point we don’t know what card Ace has up his sleeve (ha ha 🙃) but that doesn’t mean he plans to start his own party, as some might speculate. Magashule confirmed to News24 that he would “never establish a new party”, adding that “I remain a loyal member of the ANC”. If that’s the case, Mr Magashule, then maybe you should start acting like it.