Carl Niehaus’s ANC membership has temporarily been suspended for the “inflammatory speeches” he made outside former president Jacob Zuma’s house in Nkandla over the weekend, but he’s made it clear that he will appeal this “with immediate effect”.
Niehaus could face expulsion following a disciplinary hearing, and insiders said suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule could follow the same path.
He was suspended in terms of Rule 25.60 of the party’s constitution, which reads as follows: “If justifiable exceptional circumstances warrant an immediate decision of temporary suspension of a member without eliciting the comment or response of such member as contemplated above, the [national executive committee], the [national working committee], the [provincial executive committee], or the [provincial working committee], as the case may be, may summarily suspend such member.”
It is understood that Magashule as well as national executive committee member Tony Yengeni, both of whom went to Nkandla over the weekend to support Zuma, might face similar membership suspensions.
In a letter from the ANC secretary-general’s office, where Niehaus is a staffer and where deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte — who signed the letter dated 7 July 2021 — is currently holding the fort, “Comrade Carl Niehaus, ANC member”, is informed that the speeches he made at Nkandla over the weekend, broadcast live on national television, had brought the ANC into disrepute.
“Moreover, you were clad in a T-shirt bearing the ANC logo when you appeared on television,” he is told.
Note that he is not addressed as a spokesperson of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans at all because, as far as the ANC’s NEC is concerned, that structure has now finally been disbanded. Niehaus’s reaction on Tuesday when this news was made public was that he did not recognise the disbandment and intended to carry on as normal. This was apparently also the last straw that led to Duarte writing this letter of suspension the next day.
Niehaus is told that, ahead of his disciplinary action, his membership would be temporarily suspended because:
“The NEC has a reasonable apprehension that you will likely continue with your acts of misconduct and cause further damage to the good name and reputation of the ANC, thereby bringing the organisation into more disrepute. Consequently, in the current volatile political situation in the country, aided and abetted by your incendiary speeches, the NEC has come to the conclusion that exceptional circumstances exist which justify that your temporary suspension come into operation with immediate effect (from the date of receipt of this letter).”
The seriousness of his transgressions means that the ANC will not give Niehaus 48 hours to respond to the allegations that his behaviour at Nkandla constituted misconduct.
Niehaus will be able to set aside this temporary suspension only by making an application to the party’s national disciplinary committee of appeal, something which he said on Twitter he intended to do immediately. “I remain a dedicated liberation fighter,” he added, which possibly was also meant to refer to his efforts to help keep Zuma out of jail.
Niehaus told supporters brandishing firearms and knobkieries at Nkandla that there would be “dire” consequences should Zuma be imprisoned. The former president was ordered by the Constitutional Court to report to police by Sunday to start a 15-month prison sentence after he was found guilty of contempt of court.
Niehaus also said: “The MKMVA will form a human shield to protect president Zuma.” Duarte on Tuesday said using terms such as “human shield” was considered a provocation and reminiscent of the terms that “international terrorists” would use.
The NEC at a special meeting on Monday resolved that Niehaus’s contravention of the following rules warrant disciplinary action, and the charges are likely to relate to the following rules in the ANC’s constitution:
- 25.17.4: Engaging in any unethical or immoral conduct which detracts from the character, values and integrity of the ANC, as may be determined by the Integrity Commission, which brings or could bring or has the potential to bring or as a consequence thereof brings the ANC into disrepute;
- 25.17.5: Behaving in a manner or making any utterance which brings or could bring or has the potential to bring or as a consequence thereof brings the ANC into disrepute;
- 25.17.7: Behaving in a manner which provokes or is likely to provoke or has the potential to provoke division or impact negatively on the unity of the ANC; and
- 25.17.10: Participating in any organised factional activity that goes beyond the recognised norms of free debate inside the ANC and which threatens its unity.
Niehaus in January was also given a letter of intention to suspend him after he made demeaning comments about Duarte in an interview.
The NEC is set to have a scheduled meeting this weekend, after its prior postponement last weekend. DM