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Our take: Wrong move, Ace

By now you know the ANC’s secretary-general Ace Magashule has finally been suspended and is, of course, fighting back. Naturally, he posted a photo of himself playing chess. So much symbolism! The cunning! The strategy! The… technical error? That’s right: the shot shows Magashule about to move a pawn that literally couldn’t go anywhere: it was stuck in terms of the game’s rules and where the other pieces were laid out. It was so ridiculous that one of the game’s greatest living players, Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, made fun of him on Twitter. 

We like to think Magashule is showing things exactly as they are: the man has no moves left and, unlike his ally Jacob Zuma, he can’t even PLAY chess. After he laughably tried to counter-suspend party leader President Cyril Ramaphosa last week he has until tomorrow to apologise. If he doesn’t, the party will probably bring disciplinary charges against him and use that as grounds for dismissal. If they don’t they’re going to need to think up another process – fast. SA’s labour laws are pretty strict and the ANC as an employer has to abide by it. When their employees refuse to “step aside”, the party will have to deal with the full disciplinary process. That means paid suspension, and that’s costing them over R130K a month for Ace while the party is considering retrenching half its workers, and still others go unpaid – senior figures have bloated the party’s salary bill for years. 

The ANC has linked Magashule’s suspension to the criminal trial he’s facing but that could last for years before a guilty sentence would allow them to finally dismiss him. So they’ll use his attempted Ramaphosa suspension and his other antics to get him out faster. But the party needs to think about how it’s going to deal with other ANC members who refuse to “step aside” going forward without bankrupting themselves: a way that is in keeping with labour law, and answers the public’s demands for greater accountability. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 15 April 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates