Ace Magashule must step aside – Ramaphosa allies will insist as the battle of legal opinions gets under way

By Ferial Haffajee 2 December 2020
Illustrative image | sources: ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule (Photo: Netwerk24/Gallo Images/Getty Images/Felix Dlangamandla) / President Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo: Sunday Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images/Moeletsi Mabe)

One hundred days after passing a set of tough anti-corruption resolutions, the ANC is still fighting about this. Expect fireworks at its NEC meeting, where Magashule will be on the carpet.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and his allies will insist that ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule must step aside after being charged with multiple counts of corruption earlier this month. 

They will come armed with a legal opinion first reported by News24, which says that because the ANC is a voluntary organisation, its members must abide by the party’s decisions and its constitution. 

The ANC constitution says the secretary-general can temporarily suspend a member for various misdemeanours that bring the party into disrepute – a corruption charge applies to that definition. 

Because Magashule is the central figure, the task would fall to his deputy. (Here’s a backgrounder on how the process is supposed to work.)

ANC Constitution: Magashule must stand aside or be suspended – Duarte to be the stand-in SG

On the other side, Magashule and party officials will use an opinion from advocate Gcina Malindi, which questions the constitutional validity of the step-aside rule. This rule was confirmed in a conference resolution of the 2017 Nasrec conference and reaffirmed in a special anti-corruption NEC in August.

“There will be a reassertion that all those charged must step aside,” said an NEC member who spoke on condition of anonymity. The person predicted that there would be “fireworks” at the two-day meeting, which gets under way on Sunday, 6 December. 

Magashule is firing on all cylinders. After his appearance in court, he told a crowd outside that he would not step aside unless told to do so by the ANC branches. However, if he raises this argument at the weekend, the answer will be that these very same branches passed the step-aside resolution in 2017.

“Demand that every cadre accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices accounts to the Integrity Committee immediately or faces DC (disciplinary committee) processes,” says the resolution.  

It goes on: “Summarily suspend people who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down, while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures.”

Some ANC NEC members say this is binding on Magashule, who clearly has a different perspective.

Ramaphosa is increasingly standing isolated in the party’s top six as an adherent to the step-aside rule.

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe said in a Sunday Times interview that no official could be forced to step aside; that it had to be voluntary.  

And the party’s treasurer-general, Paul Mashatile, told City Press on 29 November: “So comrade Ace will stay in the organisation…With regard to Ace, we haven’t taken a decision that we’ll push people out. 

“The concept of stepping down at the conference was that people should consider it as an option if they got into this position [of being charged].”  

Deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte has said the step-aside rule is easier said than done. 

The ground has shifted under Ramaphosa since the holding of the special anti-corruption NEC, as the Zondo commission has heard testimony that deputy state security minister Zizi Kodwa received funds from technology company EOH, which is heavily implicated in State Capture. 

Kodwa is a powerful ally of the president and can become a stalking horse for Magashule’s supporters at Sunday’s NEC meeting.   

The ANC’s implementation of the step-aside rule is inconsistent: in Gauteng, the president’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, and former health MEC Bandile Masuku stepped aside after being instructed to do so by provincial party bosses. But in KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and Limpopo, the rule has been ignored. DM


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All Comments 6

  • Duarte says “step aside is easier aid than done”. It is what anyone with any integrity would do voluntarily. If one does not possess integrity, one should not be in a position of responsibility.

  • The rule has been ignored and Cyril can go to hell is the message. The ANC is a law unto itself in every sense of the word and the poor and disenfranchised can go to hell says the ANC bosses. LOUD and CLEAR. We hear you and yours, ever so clearly, Cyril.

  • What fraction of ANC voters are actually and properly having their say through the party branch structures? Perhaps it is time that the many decent ANC supporters take back their branches. Sitting at home on WhatsApp and FaceBook and complaining is not going to help. Ace said he will go if the branches tell him to. So tell him to go!!!

  • What is the point of even having a “Chairperson” of a political party if the incumbent says everything is at the discretion of individual office bearers, as in “voluntary” ? A classic Mantashe-Duck. The collective is invoked to support austerity, while individuals that have incurred our collective debt are not held to account. It appears that the ruling party is absconding responsibility, to put more strain on a legal system that – judging by the aggregate of ANC actions – it still wants to break.


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