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No space to wriggle free: Ace’s strategy fails as the...

South Africa


No space to wriggle free: Ace’s strategy fails as the Integrity Commission insists he must step aside 

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule. (Photo: Gallo Images / Esa Alexander)

The Integrity Commission report says the ANC cannot use legal opinions to avoid implementing its own tough anti-corruption resolutions to protect members implicated in wrongdoing. 

The ANC’s Integrity Commission has found that the party’s national executive committee must suspend Secretary-General Ace Magashule. 

In a tough-worded, three-page report the commission says the party is backtracking on its anti-corruption resolutions made at a special August 2020 anti-corruption meeting of its national executive. At a meeting last week the party avoided making Magashule step aside by engaging in a war of legal opinions, some of which found that the step-aside rule was unconstitutional. 

The commission says this doesn’t seem right. 

“The Integrity Commission is concerned that there is a growing negative perception about the NEC. The [commission] is increasingly receiving feedback from the general public, including ANC members, that the NEC is not providing decisive leadership and is paralysed in fulfilling its promise of organisational renewal and combating corruption.

“The concern [of the commission] is the negative and damaging impact these perceptions have on the organisation. 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 NEC seems to be doubting the soundness and correctness of its own conference resolutions, including its own decisions, especially those that deal with corruption.

“The [commission] 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.”

This is the first Integrity Commission report made public and in which the body, comprising veterans of high standing in the party, has told it off so publicly. There is no space for the party’s NEC to wriggle out of suspending Magashule now.  

The report reveals that Magashule had called commission chairperson George Mashamba immediately after corruption charges were laid against him and said he would stand aside from all positions if instructed to do so by the NEC. 

But at the same time numerous legal opinions which found that the party’s step-aside rule unconstitutional have been leaked into the public domain. 

City Press reported at the weekend that a mystery document questioning the legality of the Integrity Commission had also surfaced, while the Sunday Times reported that Magashule had managed to persuade the body that he was not guilty of the charges against him. This was clearly disinformation. 

The commission report reveals that “He [Magashule] came to the meeting very well prepared and offered to share with the [commission] all the documentation to which he referred, which he later did.” The commission said Magashule had said he was a disciplined cadre who would abide by the decisions of the body. He told the commission:

  • He was bound by decisions of collective leadership;
  • He would step aside if instructed by the NEC;
  • He understood that he was a guardian of the principles and values of the ANC;
  • He understood that he had to uphold the values of the ANC to give it the credibility and legitimacy to lead the country; and
  • He understood the ANC was a voluntary organisation and its members are bound by its constitution (this is an important concession since the step-aside rule is likely counter to the constitutional principle of being innocent until proven guilty).

The report makes it difficult for Magashule to not step aside if the ANC NEC now decides he must. The report says: “The [commission] greatly appreciates the SG’s [secretary-general’s] respect for the Integrity Commission.”  

A confounding aspect of the report is that Magashule is the person who must implement the finding against himself because he is its chief administrative officer. The commission, therefore, says the NEC must implement its own resolutions to force him to step aside. And, to anticipate the opposition this finding will face within the NEC, the commission notes that the party’s constitution, code of conduct and resolutions are fair, just and include processes with “myriad of checks and balances” that are mirrored in the country’s Constitution. 

The commission  checkmates both Magashule and the party’s NEC to prevent stasis on his step aside. 

“In his interaction with the [commission] the secretary-general [Magashule] indicated that he would never resist the decision of the NEC even if he might disagree with it. However, in the unlikely event of resistance to this, the NEC should consider suspension [of Magashule] pending the finalisation of the criminal case against him.”

The party’s constitution makes provision for such cautionary suspension when a leader has been charged and when such a suspension would be in the best interest of the ANC. (For more on this, see here).  

The commission consists of 11 senior and venerated ANC members. Since the August anti-corruption meeting of the NEC, its numbers were bolstered by three new members to take it to 11. It also received greater secretariat and legal support. It appears to have paid off. 

Now the ball is in the ANC NEC’s court, with the volley belonging to President Cyril Ramaphosa who has previously said Integrity Commission findings should be binding

Reacting to the report on Tuesday, the ANC says that its secretary-general Ace Magashule remains its secretary-general.

Spokesperson Pule Mabe said that the Integrity Commission report which found that Magashule should step aside and that the party’s NEC should suspend him if he did not, did not create a need for urgent action.

“The processes of the ANC don’t change halfway,” said Mabe. He said the Integrity Commission’s report would be tabled for discussion before the party’s NEC like any other report and this was unlikely to happen before Christmas. 

“Give the ANC space,” said Mabe who criticised the leaking of the report.  “The report should not have gotten to where it got to,” said Mabe. He meant into the public eye.

George Mashamba is chair of the  Integrity Commission and the deputy is
Brigitte Mabandla. DM



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All Comments 5

  • Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, here we go round the mulberry bush…I shouldn’t think there are many of them in Stalingrad.

  • I am not a betting man, but am prepared to place a 5 to 1 bet that Ace will not step aside. Neither will he be suspended. In fact, he will play a Zuma, likely with the latter’s help, and sidestep all internal ANC structures, like the so-called NEC. Ace is here to stay, as even his court case will take many years, by which time, who knows, he might even be voted in as ANC president, with Duduzane Zuma as his deputy (S.G.)

  • why don’t the honest and embarrassed ANC supporters take back their branch structure? That is where capture started : with the branches electing crooks to the NEC. 1m branch members are in actual fact controlling what 20 million voters think they are in charge of. The neck determines where the head looks, so control the neck.

  • As.per usual, no urgency to do something not palatable- just wait until the furore has abated and hope no one will then demand action. I applaud the integrity committee making the distinction between the legal opinion and the strictly ethical one which the comrades don’t, or won’t grasp!

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