South Africa


Ace Magashule’s long-waning process, from ‘Gangster State’ onwards, suggests The Autumn of the Patriarch has arrived

Suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

The suspended ANC secretary-general has suffered a series of significant defeats, with virtually no evidence of any victories for him, or his dwindling supporters.

It is clear from the recent series of suspension letters in the ANC that a series of dynamics is climaxing around Secretary-General Ace Magashule. While he still, rather boisterously, claims to have “suspended” President Cyril Ramaphosa after being himself suspended, there is much evidence that the balance of power has now shifted sharply away from the Free State strongman.

While some will claim that the outcome is still uncertain, the process that has been followed suggests that there is now considerable – and perhaps unstoppable – political momentum involved. 

Magashule has suffered a series of significant defeats of late, with virtually no evidence of any victories for him, or his dwindling supporters.

The letter, signed by ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte, informing Magashule of his suspension is unprecedented in the party. Never has a secretary-general been suspended in this way.

Equally, never has a secretary-general then tried to suspend a leader of the party in the way in which Magashule tried to do.

In a letter which went public on Wednesday night, and an accompanying media statement, Magashule said he was suspending Ramaphosa from the party leadership because of the Nasrec 2017 conference resolution saying those implicated in wrongdoing must step aside or be suspended.

This appears to have been part of a consistent campaign to broaden the scope of the argument, rather than complying only with the National Executive Committee (NEC) resolution which says those facing criminal charges must step aside or be suspended.

It has not yet been confirmed which letter was sent or received first.

A final and official outcome to this situation is likely to come after the NEC meeting this weekend.

While the legal technicalities are important in a situation like this, it is possible that the politics will trump those, that who is “winning” matters more than who is technically (or legally) correct.

Recent history shows that Ramaphosa is on the winning side.

The process which has led to the removal of Magashule from his position has a long history.

The first signs of Magashule’s weakness were revealed before the 2019 election.

Immediately after the publication of the book Gangster State by Scorpio’s Pieter-Louis Myburgh in April that year, the ANC released a statement condemning the book.

But then it emerged the statement had been released by Magashule himself, and that the party’s top six leaders did not agree with it. From that point on, the ANC secretary-general has not been able to alter the balance of power.

This became even clearer a few months later.

In July 2019 Magashule released an extraordinary statement attacking former Cabinet minister Derek Hanekom, calling him a “wedge-driver”. This was because, in 2017, Hanekom had met with an EFF member to discuss possibly recalling Jacob Zuma as president.

Then it emerged that the other members of the ANC’s top six had tried to stop Magashule from speaking to journalists just before an important meeting, in the aftermath of that statement.

By then, claims of corruption against Magashule were being made at the Zondo Commission, and his full (still alleged) involvement in the Free State asbestos audit scandal was becoming clearer. 

Fast-forward to the end of August last year, and then came Ramaphosa’s most public move: an open letter to individual ANC members, stating that when it came to corruption, “The ANC may not stand alone in the dock, but it does stand as Accused No. 1.”

This was a direct statement of intent, a sign that Ramaphosa was moving.

Just days later, the ANC NEC resolved that those charged criminally must step aside or be suspended.

Then came the bombshell: in November, an arrest warrant for Magashule, for the Free State asbestos project.

At the time he was defiant, saying that he could only be removed by ANC branches.

But to no avail. By the end of March this year, the NEC pressed ahead and issued a 30-day “step aside” deadline. It became clear that Magashule was now very much on the ropes.

Throughout this timeline there is little to no evidence of any victories for Magashule.

While the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association and its spokesperson, Carl Niehaus, have regularly demonstrated their support for Magashule, virtually no one outside the Free State has done the same.

Magashule has perhaps been able to slow down the process, but the momentum towards the ultimate end has not lessened and it appears that this process is unstoppable.

Thus, even if there is an appeal of the suspension, or lengthy arguments at the NEC meeting this weekend, or emotional pleas from Tony Yengeni, the tide is very much against the suspended secretary-general, confirming that Ramaphosa is firmly in charge of the ANC, for the first time since Magashule won the election to the position of secretary-general at Nasrec in 2017 by just 24 votes. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mark Hansen says:

    Wow. The speed at which the ANC does things almost gives one whiplash….

    • Alley Cat says:

      HAHA!! Good one!
      Thank goodness for the journalists who expose these “alleged” thieves otherwise they would still be feeding at that particular trough. Many more to pursue still.
      No mention of the other 29??

    • Steven Burnett says:

      Cyril’s long game has supermodel length legs. The full story of what goes on behind the scenes at Luthuli house will be an amazingly riveting read if we ever get it.

  • Hiram C Potts says:

    Whichever way this plays out, the gloves are finally well & truly off. Ace has overplayed his hand. Even for the ANC & its perverted processes, there’s no going back from here.

    The guillotine has finally fallen, this can only end badly for Ace & his cronies.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The only good thing about cadre deployment is that tens of thousands of cadres have gotten very used to their deployments and wish to retain them.

    Unlikely to sacrifice position and income for Ace and Jacob

  • Robert Mitchell says:

    So he goes home on full pay for the next 5 years. Still costing us millions!

    • Derek Hebbert says:

      He is paid by the ANC so technically its not a taxpayers problem . Of course the ANC arranges “quid pro quo” deals for Government contracts so yes we will end up paying.

    • Johan Buys says:

      Robert, I think we would quickly crowd-fund a scheme to suspend many many specific individuals’ full-pay-suspension.

      As MasterCard would say : priceless!

    • Carol Green says:

      While it sticks in the craw that he’s on full pay, I actually think it’s quite inspired. It means he has one less thing to argue against. I’m sure Ace would take the ANC to court if they hadn’t & he might have won. Also, as Derek says, it’s not directly taxpayers money.

  • Derek Hebbert says:

    By this thinking I can only assume that JZ will also be suspended as he too is facing criminal charges??

  • Andy Miles says:

    If CR pulls SA back from the brink of anarchy and the moral pit of corruption he will have achieved something right up there with Madiba. Next, reform the ANC’s leadership voting methods, make such a system illegal, get our democracy working as intended, and give our children and grandchildren a future.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Ramaphosa will do didlysquwat if there is no political pressure from outside the ANC. Lets give that pressure a boozt!

  • Stuart Kinnear says:

    A good sign but did it really need to take so long? Hopefully this means this process will get a bit more momentum next time. This weekend’s NEC meeting is going to be tense…

  • Smudger Smiff says:

    I think the Free State strongman is nowhere near done in this fight – let us wait to see just how truly desparate and despicable he can be.
    Too, too soon to be dancing on his political grave

  • Tods The Toed says:

    A pathetic and morally bankrupt individual and so is a lot of his comrades. Totally useless but dangerous and I respectfully, wish he just drops dead.

  • Lesley Young says:

    News now, Saturday evening, Both Ace and Bongo were “booted out of today’s NEC meeting.” 2 down, only a couple of hundred to go. At last, there is hope.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    How is it that disgraced ANC members like Yengeni always gravitate towards the hopelessly corrupt in the organisation? I guess it is in their DNA … so they can’t help it ! A marker of their character . In another language … soort soek soort !

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