ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule must step aside once charged, according to the ANC Constitution, now reinforced by the party’s special National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on corruption in August 2020.
A warrant of arrest was issued for Magashule on 10 November, Daily Maverick reported, and he will appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Friday. He faces several corruption-related charges for his role in the R255-million asbestos roof audit of Free State township houses. The money was looted and splurged on bling cars and houses by contractor Edwin Sodi, as Pieter Louis-Myburgh detailed here and only 3% of it was spent on the actual service to the intended beneficiaries.
Magashule is the biggest fish netted by the Hawks and the Investigating Directorate of the National Prosecuting Authority in a series of State Capture-related charges and arrests at the beginning of October 2020. After ANC MP Vincent Smith, who was summonsed and charged with Bosasa-related corruption, Magashule is the second major politician booked by the Hawks and the NPA.
His arrest will have political reverberations as he is the chief administrative officer of the ANC. The party’s constitution is clear that Magashule must step aside. Section 25.7 says:
“Where a public representative, office-bearer or member has been indicted to appear in a court of law on any charge, the secretary-general… acting on the authority of the NEC… if satisfied that the temporary suspension of such (person) would be in the best interest of the Organisation, may suspend such public representative, office-bearer or member…”
As secretary-general, Magashule cannot suspend himself, so the party is likely to call a special NEC meeting to decide what to do. The NEC has the power to suspend him and should that happen, the Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte has to step in as acting secretary-general, according to the party’s constitution.
(At the time of publishing this article, it was reported by News24 that the ANC’s Top Six were meeting on Tuesday night to, among other issues, discuss Magashule’s arrest – Ed)
In addition to the constitution, the party’s 2015 national general council resolved to “summarily suspend people who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures”. In August 2020, the party resolved that, “People who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures should be summarily suspended.”
“We say ‘Hands Off SG, Hands Off,’ ” said MK Military Veterans Association official Carl Niehaus, who said the association believed Magashule should not stand aside. “(The warrant) has serious consequences for the ANC and the country in general. We must all be concerned.” In a statement, the ANC said “the Secretary-General previously spoke about his imminent arrest and had requested his legal team to establish the validity of such an arrest with the relevant authorities… he (will) cooperate with any process undertaken by law enforcement agencies.”
Magashule is backed by the Free State wing of the ANC which is relatively small, by the MKMVA as well as parts of KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces. His supporters will engage in a campaign against his arrest, but he does not have the same support he had when he was elected secretary-general at the party’s conference in Nasrec, Johannesburg almost three years ago.
If he digs in his heels and refuses to stand aside, a suspension would have to be ordered by the NEC, which will pose a conundrum for President Cyril Ramaphosa who has chosen a path of rapprochement with the strongman.
Magashule has been accused of plotting against Ramaphosa since the change of guard in the ANC. He was summoned to appear before the party’s Integrity Commission earlier in 2020 — The Sowetan reported that he did so, but denied the allegations of being involved in tender shenanigans while he was Free State premier.
Questioned on the stumps where he was campaigning for the ANC before the 11 November by-elections, Magashule was bullish and hinted that dark forces were at play in the warrant. DM
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