RENEW & REBUILD
ANC to review step-aside decisions at least once a year
ANC members affected by the step-aside rule are barred from running for leadership roles, but can request periodical reviews of their positions, the party’s National Executive Committee has decided. The battle over the divisive rule appears far from over ahead of the party’s national conference.
The ANC will review the cases of members affected by the step-aside rule at least once a year, or at the request of the member, to decide whether the rule should still apply, party Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile announced on Thursday following a special meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) earlier in the week.
The step-aside rule compels members facing corruption or serious criminal charges to voluntarily step down from leadership positions or face potential suspension. Leaders affected include Secretary-General Ace Magashule and eThekwini chairperson Zandile Gumede.
Mashatile said members who want to use the “window of opportunity” could approach the party “from time to time” to review their positions if there had been developments in their cases. The reviews will be conducted at the level at which the leader served, be it in branch, regional, provincial or national structures.
The NEC also decided to bar members who have had to step aside from accepting nominations for leadership positions. The decision will not be imposed retrospectively, but will help the ANC avoid repeats of what happened recently in eThekwini, where Gumede was elected as chairperson despite facing corruption charges, and in Mpumalanga, where Mandla Msibi was elected as provincial treasurer while facing murder and attempted murder charges.
“When we adopted these guidelines last year, we did say this is a living document which can be enriched from time to time as there are new developments,” said Mashatile.
He said the party was aware of public scrutiny following the recent ANC elections and decided that members who had stepped aside could not accept nominations for leadership positions “to close that gap”.
A number of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s critics have claimed that the step-aside rule is being used to sideline his opponents ahead of the party’s national conference in December.
Mashatile acknowledged that the amendments to the rule would prevent certain leaders from contesting for positions.
“We felt that this is about the ANC, not individuals. Here we’re protecting the organisation, not ourselves, and once you put the interests of the ANC first, you have to make difficult decisions that may affect your friends in the organisation, your comrades that you like, but the ANC must come first.
“The public in South Africa is not happy that the ANC allows people who are charged to be there [in leadership positions]. They’re not happy. So we can choose to protect our friends or choose the people and in fact, the ANC decided to choose the people,” said the treasurer-general.
The specifics of the step-aside rule, however, still appear murky and likely to be implemented on an ad hoc basis. Mashatile said former minister Bathabile Dlamini, who has been convicted of perjury and sentenced to four years in prison or a R200,000 fine, will voluntarily submit herself to the party’s national Integrity Commission.
He suggested that because Dlamini’s sentence included the option of a fine, it didn’t meet the party’s step-aside standard of charges of “corruption or other serious crimes”.
“Essentially, a matter should end there, but she’s a public figure. There are people who think, you know, this has brought the ANC into disrepute,” said Mashatile, explaining Dlamini’s upcoming appearance at the Integrity Commission.
“We’re not done with step-aside,” said Mashatile, noting that the NEC and National Working Committee would continue to look at changes.
Clashes over the implementation of the step-aside rule are likely to continue up until the ANC meets in December for its elective conference. Mashatile emphasised that the decisions of the NEC on the issue could be altered or overturned by delegates at the conference.
The NEC effectively disbanded the leadership of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) under Dlamini, saying a task team would be appointed to lead the organisation to an elective conference. He said the party was looking at appointing an interim leader who had no interest in contesting for an ANCWL leadership position.
Mashatile tried to avoid saying the ANCWL leadership had been disbanded and instead emphasised that it had exceeded its term, making it “unconstitutional and legally indefensible” to allow it to stay in place.
The party also decided that interim committees, which have been appointed at numerous levels across the country to replace local leaders, essentially take on the functions of elected committees and will be able to vote at conferences. DM