South Africa

ANALYSIS

ANC Integrity Commission has spoken, so the pressure is now on the national executive committee

ANC Integrity Commission has spoken, so the pressure is now on the national executive committee
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)

The ANC Integrity Commission recommendation to the party’s national executive committee that Ace Magashule step aside appears to be devastating for the secretary-general. It is also devastating for the NEC as it is both a rebuke and an instruction. In one stroke the commission appears to have eliminated Magashule’s main arguments against his removal from office. But there is still much political turbulence to come and a vision of a united ANC is likely to remain just that.

The ANC Integrity Commission says in its findings that “it recommends to the NEC the immediate implementation of the NEC resolution of 6 to 8 August”, what has become known as the “step aside” decision of the committee.

ANC IC SG Report Final

This is after Magashule appeared before the commission to explain why he had been charged with corruption relating to the Free State asbestos scandal.
In essence, the commission is telling the NEC to implement its own resolution.
These findings and the added commentary by the commission are fascinating for several reasons. Firstly, its findings appear to be crucial for the balance of power within the ANC. The commission’s members would have been aware that recommending that Magashule step aside or be suspended from his position would have massive implications for whatever happens next to the governing party. And yet despite all of that, the commission has issued the findings in record time.

It took just three days from hearing Magashule’s submission on Saturday morning to their findings being made public on Tuesday, December 15.

The main question the commission had to answer was whether or not Magashule had an “adequate explanation” for being charged with corruption in relation to the Free State asbestos scandal. It has clearly found that he does not have such an explanation.

But the commission has gone much further.

Its three-page finding spends much time lambasting the NEC for failing to act against wrongdoing and for the perception that this has created in society, saying: “… It is now perceived that the NEC cannot implement its decision against its secretary-general not as a form of protecting him, but because some of the NEC members are themselves implicated in wrongdoing. The highest decision-making body between conferences is responsible for the increasing lack of trust by the very people it purports to lead.”

The integrity commission is made up of veterans of the movement, people who have often given their lives both to the struggle and the ANC. For them to lecture the NEC – to essentially say that it has failed – is new, significant and devastating.

It is suggesting that the NEC is unable to act for technical reasons because its members do not want to act. And by ensuring that it examines the “perception” that society has of it, the NEC creates an unanswerable case.
While there is no public polling on attitudes towards the ANC at the moment it seems fair to assume from the general public conversation, that there is a sense it is paralysed. And this is largely, but of course not entirely, because of the Magashule situation.

Certainly, it would be close to impossible for anyone to argue the commission is wrong.

Then there is the commission’s apparent disdain for the legal arguments that have been brought by Magashule’s supporters, who have said several times that it would be wrong to remove anyone from their position until there are “proper guidelines” in place. It was reported before the last NEC meeting that five legal opinions had been sought, and that several of these had said the ANC would be acting in a manner inconsistent with the country’s Constitution by forcing someone to step aside before a court found them to be guilty.
The commission brushes all of that aside, saying that it “is worried that the officials and the NEC are increasingly making use of legal opinions to avoid implementing resolutions that are essentially ethical and political and that it has continuously promised South Africa it would implement [resolutions]”.
For good measure, it quotes the NEC resolution itself that “cadres of the ANC who are formally charged for corruption or other serious crimes must immediately step aside from all leadership positions in the ANC, legislatures, or other government structures pending the finalisation of their cases”.
Essentially, the commission appears to be saying that legal arguments are all good and well, but the NEC must implement what ANC delegates resolved at Nasrec. And that was then reaffirmed by the NEC.

All of this appears to put the NEC in a position in which it cannot fail to act, unless it wants to be seen to be ignoring its own integrity commission, and its own resolution.

It would also appear to weaken Magashule’s supporters both inside and outside the NEC. They would find themselves in a position where they have to argue against the findings of a commission that Magashule was quite happy to appear before.

The commission takes care to praise Magashule for appearing before it, and for his promises to abide by NEC decisions even if “he disagrees with them”.
Again, this would appear to make it harder for him to evade complying with an NEC decision.

It may also have helped the commission that the NEC had agreed beforehand, in its “step-aside” decision, that this was its position. In other words, the NEC cannot first decide to implement the Nasrec resolution on corruption and then turn around and say it will not.

It may well be this manoeuvre by President Cyril Ramaphosa, to get the NEC to pass this resolution in August, before Magashule was charged, that turns out to be vitally important.

The next question of course is what will Magashule and his allies do next?
It is likely that they had provided for this eventuality, that he would have known the commission would rule in this way and make these points. For the commission this would have been an existential issue, if its findings are not implemented the commission itself will be ignored for the remainder of its term. And its members would have known that this could also be the end of the ANC they have served for so many years.

Magashule would surely have known this.

It is possible that he and his supporters attack this finding through legal means, they go to the courts, or they claim in ANC meetings that he is innocent until proven guilty and thus it is wrong for him to be removed.
They could also have other tactics prepared, that could involve throwing mud at his opponents or trying to bring some other kind of chaos to prevent the NEC from meeting or taking a decision. It may even be possible that the NEC cannot form a quorum, or that there is a boycott or some other tactic is implemented.

For Magashule’s enemies in the NEC a key tactic may be to try to separate his interests from his allies. If it can be shown that to not remove him would weaken them significantly, that would be a tactical victory for those who want Magashule to step aside. This ruling may help Magashule’s opponents achieve that.

The first decision he will have to make is whether he steps aside now, or if he tries to force the NEC to actually suspend him. Considering he has said that could only be removed by ANC branches it still appears likely that he will refuse to step down.

This would have prolonged and intensified the crisis, as well as the paralysis currently plaguing the ANC.

For the moment those who want Magashule out of office now have a powerful new weapon. But he is still unlikely to go without a fight. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    The “step aside resolution” is about trying to restore the credibility of the ANC by showing that there is an element of ethics and integrity within the party. Although the concepts of morality, ethics and integrity should guide legislation, the principles have nothing to do with the implementation of the law. “Innocent until proven guilty” is the legal standard that the state will have to measure up to in respect of the charges against Ace. Ethics and integrity are standards higher than those required by law, so there is no point in seeking legal advice in respect of ethical principles. If the ANC has taken a resolution to act with integrity, just do it!

  • Guy Young says:

    Integrity what’s that???

  • Lesley Young says:

    “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Maybe it’s time for our ANC leaders to (re)read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”!

  • Ian Troost says:

    Unfortunately the ANC is beyond salvation – so don’t expect them to do the right thing, I’m sad to say

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