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‘It’s all groovy at the NEC’ – Ace Magashule

South Africa


‘It’s all groovy at the NEC’ – Ace Magashule

African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Ace Magashule. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Alon Skuy)

In a virtual update on Monday December 7, the ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule did not take questions and presented a picture of an anodyne meeting

Halfway into the first National Executive Committee meeting since ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule was charged with corruption in November, the topic had still not been tabled. 

Giving the media a “virtual doorstep update” on Zoom, Magashule ran through the agenda points and did not include whether the charges facing him had come up. Neither had the party discussed the “step aside” rule. This is a reference to the party’s repeated resolution that leaders charged with corruption or other criminal offences should step down from their roles.

The ANC has commissioned three legal opinions on the constitutionality of the rule and a fourth opinion was provided voluntarily. Most reportedly favour Magashule not going on gardening leave.

Magashule did a whistle-stop briefing to journalists and did not take questions. He confirmed that former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma had again joined the virtual NEC meeting.

He said that President Cyril Ramaphosa had presented his political overview and that the meeting had discussed the economy (set for a rebound but still likely to remain in recession), jobs and relations in the Tripartite Alliance (the political pact between the ANC, the union federation Cosatu and the SA Communist Party). 

Magashule said a report on state-owned companies had been tabled.  He listed the party’s priorities at the NEC meeting as “GBV (gender-based violence); ANC (branch conferences); poverty and unemployment; and Covid-19”. 

 “The meeting is frank…We are happy… [it is continuing on a] conducive and constructive note.” 

But Business Day reported that it was a tense meeting with the step-aside camp going toe-to-toe with the won’t-step-aside camp.  It reported that a compromise was likely to be struck: instead of stepping down, Magashule would appear before the Integrity Commission.

The Integrity Commission invited Magashule to appear before it in August to explain comments he made about it to a television interviewer. Nothing came of his meeting with the commission, which he regards as “one-sided”.

In August, Daily Maverick reported that: “From Magashule’s side, he is said to view the letter as a further example of the Commission’s alleged ‘one-sided’ findings.  His team wants the commission to also probe the genesis of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s R500-million funding for his campaign to become ANC president in 2017 and wants it to open an investigation into alleged vote-buying at that conference.”

Integrity Commission summons to Ace Magashule sets stage for fiery anti-corruption special ANC NEC meeting

Whatever the commission decides on Magashule, he is unlikely to accede to it, as its findings are not binding on ANC members.  

Even though he is facing corruption charges, it looks like the strongman secretary-general is going to kick into touch any efforts to make him stand down. This raises the spectre of Magashule being both at his desk as the ANC Number 1 and in the dock as Accused Number 1 when his trial gets under way next February. Stephen Grootes reported on those implications here.

The NEC meeting is continuing. DM


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  • “His team wants the commission to also probe the genesis of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s R500-million funding for his campaign to become ANC president in 2017 .” A lesson in whataboutism by Ace Magashule’s team. In the years of Apartheid a popular argument among racist were what about the way in which the Americans treated the Indians and the Australians treated the Aboriginals. Whataboutism is the ploy of perpetrators to persuade themselves and others that they, the perpetrators are actually the victims.

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