South Africa


The struggle to save the ANC from itself continues – with no visible results

The struggle to save the ANC from itself continues – with no visible results
From left, ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule, former Nelson Mandela Bay ANC councillor Andile Lungisa and President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Illustrative image | sources: Gallo Images / Alon Skuy | Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Lulama Zenzile | Leila Dougan)

In August, the ANC’s top officials declared that party members implicated in corruption must ‘step aside’. So far, no one has done so, but momentum appears to be building on both sides of the argument. While the use of a military plane for a trip to Zimbabwe may have weakened the faction around Ace Magashule, many still refuse to budge from the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

Events surrounding the ANC’s fight against internal corruption are beginning to gather pace.

In the Eastern Cape, the ANC’s Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Andile Lungisa has finally walked into jail after the Supreme Court of Appeal turned down his appeal against his sentence (his application to extend his bail pending a Constitutional Court ruling on his sentence is being heard on Monday in what is still called the Grahamstown High Court).

Disgraced Eastern Cape ANC Councillor Andile Lungisa starts prison sentence

In Gauteng this week, the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) of the ANC is due to finally explain whether it will force Dr Bandile Masuku to step down as Health MEC. Its decision will also have an implication for the political future of Masuku’s wife, Joburg Mayoral Committee Member Loyiso Masuku. The conduct of presidential spokesperson and Gauteng PEC member Khusela Diko is also being judged.

In KwaZulu-Natal, it has been reported that the faction around corruption-accused Zandile Gumede has been weakened by the fact that she may have to finally resign her position.

But it is in North West that the pushback is at its most defiant and public. In that province, a structure of the ANC, the North West ANC Women’s League, has told its members not to resign from their positions. Four of the mayors in the province who were told to step down by an interim provincial committee also belong to the league. So far, they have obeyed the instructions of the league, while appearing to defy the instructions of the interim provincial committee and the National Executive Committee (NEC).

The roots of this defiance, the ability to refuse to step down despite an instruction from the NEC may well lie in Lungisa’s behaviour. He was able to defy the NEC for 18 months after he was told to resign, setting a precedent that may haunt the ANC for a long time.

A toxic stew in the Nelson Mandela Bay coalition kitchen

The North West faction is also pushing back. They are threatening to go to court, to argue that a judge should overturn the decision to include their names on a list of people implicated in corruption. In one case, City Press reported that a North West councillor, Thedous Nebe, suggested that he would sue for R200,000 for having his name mentioned on this list.

Again, the roots of this tactic lie in the past. Former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo was able to successfully take the ANC to court last year, despite having said in the past it would be wrong for ANC members to do so. (Though the hypocrisy of this move falls into insignificance when compared to what happened in the US after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this weekend.)

Supra Mahumapelo’s court victory, the ANC’s newest maelstrom

The key to all of this mud wrestling is the power balance between Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC leader and Ace Magashule as secretary-general.

As secretary-general, it is Magashule who is supposed to tell cadres that they have to step aside. He has failed to do this – and shows no signs of being in a hurry to do so.

However, it appears that Magashule suffered a public defeat last week, over an ANC delegation’s use of a military plane to fly to Zimbabwe for a meeting with Zanu-PF.

Magashule was asked by the SABC’s Samkele Maseko: “Did you abuse state resources by going to Zimbabwe with the Minister of Defence?”

 “The answer is no,” was Magashule’s response.

But then came an amazing turnaround. The ANC issued a statement on Tuesday in the name of the secretary-general, “profusely humbling itself” in apology. It promised to reimburse the government for the trip.

When the ANC spokesperson, Pule Mabe, was asked, in an interview with SAfm, what had changed over that time, he said there had been a meeting of the ANC’s national officials. He said that on Monday 14 September the delegation that went to Zimbabwe “had briefed the officials [the top six]. Now it was out of that briefing that that review would have been made that perhaps it was necessary to reimburse government… at the time [of Magashule’s SABC interview] there would not have been any of these briefings taking place”.

It is clear from this that the decision was taken by the top six officials, and thus Magashule’s earlier comments were reversed.

Events of the past three weeks show, once again, how politics and power are trumping the principle that those implicated in corruption should “step aside”. This is because the decision about who should step aside is not being taken objectively, but politically. The people who make the decisions are the NEC or, in the case of Gauteng, a PEC, or in North West an interim provincial committee.

These decisions are being made by political bodies in the ANC, and not its Integrity Commission. Hence, those who are implicated in corruption but have strong political constituencies cannot be removed. And those who are implicated now have every reason in the world to back Magashule.

However, there is a much bigger facet of this that is often overlooked.

It appears that many in the ANC still cling to the legalistic formulation of “innocent until proven guilty”.

Not once during this time has the concept of a “higher standard” been applied, that those who are seen to be corrupt should not be in positions of leadership in the government or the governing party (or any party).

To put it another way, Lungisa’s supporters chant that he has been badly treated by the courts. Never mind the courts. Would you want to share an office with someone whom you had seen on video smashing a glass jar over another person’s head?

Would you want to work in a company where one of the top officials was implicated in corruption? Would you be happy to let your firm employ such a person?

If former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste were appointed to a top position on a JSE-listed firm, what would happen? He has not been convicted, or even criminally charged, and yet the company would be forced to back down by universal outrage.

It says a lot about our politics that there are politicians who claim that someone who is convicted of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm should not spend any time in jail. Or that someone who is an advocate, like Bongani Bongo, should sleep perfectly comfortably at night representing voters in the National Assembly while facing serious charges.

“Innocent until proven guilty” indeed appears to mean “innocent until the last avenue of appeal has been exhausted”. While that could be a good working requirement for mafia bosses, surely that should not be a standard that the aspirant leaders of our society should adhere to?

This shows that those who are trying to change the ANC, who wish to reform it, are facing the fight of their lives. And there are no indications yet that they will be successful. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Stephen, get it into your head, the AC cannot be saved.

  • Bruce Morrison says:

    If business had to only fire staff once they were found guilty in a court of law we would all be bankrupt.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Why save the ANC? It would still have all these crimes on it’s records. Ditch the rubbish! Save the country!

  • Paddy Ross says:

    The ANC has demonstrated time and time again that it is patently incapable of self correction! The only hope for SA is for the electorate to remove these kleptomaniacs from power. It would help to achieve this if DM would concentrate on the policies of the DA(which are of fundamental importance) rather than on the personalities in the party(which are unimportant). Just be honest about the governance record of the DA in Cape Town and the Western Cape compared to that in the other provinces.

  • Peter Worman says:

    There’s one set of laws for civil servants (a misnomer if there even was one) and another for the general public. If a normal employee defrauded/stole/irregularly spent R5m from the company where he worked he would immediately be suspended and if found guilty would be fired and this is provided for in labor law. Why does this not apply to civil servants after all they are employees?

  • Bruce Morrison says:

    Is it, Are innocent until proven guilty or presumed innocent until proven guilty? There is a difference.

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