ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte believes the party’s suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule will “rise to the occasion” and issue a public apology this week for attempting to suspend President Cyril Ramaphosa without a mandate from the party’s structures.
Duarte, who addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon about the party’s NEC meeting over the weekend, said Ramaphosa had mentioned that Magashule should apologise within 48 hours but the NEC did not impose a strict deadline.
Magashule was suspended from his top ANC job and party activities last week after failing to step aside from his position while he faces corruption charges in the Bloemfontein high court regarding a R255-million asbestos audit contract while he was Free State premier.
In an apparent attempt to counter the move, he also issued the president with a suspension notice due to allegations regarding Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign finances ahead of the party’s Nasrec conference.
“The NEC agreed that such conduct was completely unacceptable and a violation of the rules, norms and values of the ANC,” said Duarte.
Duarte said the secretary-general had no mandate to suspend Ramaphosa and he could face disciplinary charges if he refuses to apologise as instructed. Duarte said the NEC chose to implement the party’s step-aside rules to defend the ANC rather than pursue any particular individual.
“We did implement the step-aside decision of the ANC and with great sadness, we had to agree to a temporary suspension, and I want to really emphasise this word, a ‘temporary’ suspension of the secretary-general of the ANC and the suspension will be reviewed from time-to-time but it is entirely dependent on the court case that the SG is facing,” said Duarte.
ANC NEC member and MP Bongani Bongo also received a suspension notice and Duarte said provinces had submitted the names of about 30 other individuals who are facing criminal charges and will be expected to step aside or face suspension.
“It was never only about the secretary-general. There are numbers of other people in other provinces, as well as another member of the ANC who has also been temporarily suspended. The unfortunate focus on one individual creates the impression that there was a focus on one individual,” said Duarte.
“We were simply asking them to step aside in the space that they were and not carry out the duties and responsibilities of their office, represent the organisation publicly or in any other forum, make public pronouncements on matters relating to the organisation, engage in mobilisation of ANC structures, any other organisations or individuals,” she said.
The deputy secretary-general said that rule 25 of the ANC constitution, under which Magashule was suspended, does not make provision for an appeal but the NEC is looking at options on how to engage suspended members.
She said the concept of establishing an appeals team is being considered and the ANC is also looking at using existing bodies such as its national disciplinary committee of appeal.
Treasurer-general Paul Mashatile was tasked with finding a solution to the matter of appealing the step-aside rule and was due to submit a report on the matter on Tuesday.
Magashule has publicly maintained that he remains in his position while he attempts to appeal his suspension. Considering the party’s position that an appeal process is currently not available, he may choose to go to court to challenge his suspension.
Duarte also suggested that the ANC is looking at drafting regulations on how long a member could be suspended under the step-aside rule while awaiting their criminal cases, which are often lengthy.
“You cannot continue on a trajectory where people are charged and they are told we’re still investigating,” she said.
Duarte will carry out Magashule’s duties while he is suspended, but she was adamant she is not acting as secretary-general.
“I want to make it very clear, I am not the secretary-general of the ANC nor am I an acting secretary-general of the ANC. I’m a deputy secretary-general of the ANC carrying out the functions as prescribed in rule 16.9 of the clause of the ANC.
“The secretary-general is temporarily suspended until the matters of his court case come to finality.” DM