First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Much has been said about the appearance of ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule before the governing party’s Integrity Committee this weekend.
The committee, made up of party stalwarts, is charged with the responsibility of guarding the ANC’s image and to hold accountable party members who step out of line. So it is reasonable to expect that the committee, chaired by party elder George Mashamba, will take a tough stance against Magashule. After all, he has already been charged with corruption in relation to the R230-million Free State asbestos case.
The resolution of the ANC’s 54th National Congress at Nasrec is quite clear on what should happen in such a case.
The resolution adopted in December 2017 states that “every cadre accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices accounts to the Integrity Committee immediately or faces [disciplinary] processes”.
It goes further and demands that the party suspends those who “fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down” while facing disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial processes. By all accounts these are strong resolutions, especially when read in conjunction with the party’s NEC statement of August 2020.
Following that meeting, President Cyril Ramaphosa took the unusual step of addressing the virtual press conference that followed. Such was the gravity of the occasion. Or so we thought.
ANC members, said Ramaphosa, who were “formally charged” with corruption or other serious crimes “must immediately step aside from all leadership positions in the ANC, legislatures or other government structures pending the finalisation of their cases”.
He went further.
“The [Top Six] officials, as mandated, will develop guidelines and procedures on implementation, and the next [national working committee] meeting will review progress.
“In cases where this has not happened, such individuals will be instructed to step aside,” he said in August.
Fast forward to 8 December 2020, when Ramaphosa delivered the closing address to the ANC’s NEC meeting.
The president reaffirmed the earlier decision taken by the NEC that those charged with corruption should step aside.
“There will be no retreat … we will be consistent,” he promised.
Without any sense of irony, the president continued:
“We have agreed that in order to give effect to these decisions, that the [Top Six] officials will finalise the guidelines that will be applied in instances where members of the organisation are formally charged with, convicted of, or reported to be involved in corruption or other serious crimes,” he said. This is effectively the same thing he said in August. This raises the question: what stopped the ANC’s Top Six from formulating the said guidelines over the past three months?
The answer to that may not be as clear-cut. But perhaps the decision to subject Magashule to the Integrity Committee may offer a hint as to what is at play.
Magashule was formally charged last month and has defiantly told his supporters that he is going nowhere.
By deferring the Magashule matter to the Integrity Commission, the ANC’s NEC was effectively kicking for touch. It’s a cop-out.
They had all the tools and the power to decide the matter, but they chose the easy way out.
As things stand the ANC’s Integrity Committee is nothing more than a forum where those accused of wrongdoing go to pay lip service to accountability. Nothing happens thereafter.
To be fair to the well-meaning veterans who make up the committee, it is not their fault. Basically their recommendations to the ANC’s NEC are simply ignored.
A leaked report of the Integrity Committee laid bare the levels of frustration Mashamba and his comrades are subjected to.
The report, dated 6 July, mentioned how Deputy President David Mabuza had not been cleared by the committee before he was sworn into Parliament and later appointed to his current role.
Although Mabuza is not facing any criminal investigations, the committee had flagged him as someone whose inclusion on the ANC parliamentary list could pose problems for the party.
This came after numerous media reports linking Mabuza to questionable conduct.
The same report had recommended that Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo should step down from his role in government and also his position as the head of the ANC’s political school.This followed Masondo’s appearance before the committee to answer allegations that he had abused his powers and facilitated the arrest of his former girlfriend by the Hawks.
Not only is Masondo still holding both positions, he also attended the same NEC meeting this week that agreed to have Magashule’s matter referred to the Integrity Committee. It would be funny were it not so serious.
After Magashule appears before the Integrity Commission, a report will be prepared for the ANC officials, of which he is one. It will then be tabled to the NEC for a decision.
Basically the same divided NEC that could not decide the Magashule matter on its own will have to process a report from the very same Integrity Committee they have ignored in the past.
To make matters worse, Magashule will be part of the discussions to decide his fate. Even this week he did not recuse himself from the NEC meeting that discussed his matter.
Some colleagues have been quick to characterise the outcome of the NEC meeting as a victory for Ramaphosa. If anything, it’s a hollow victory. DM168
Sibusiso Ngalwa is the Newzroom Afrika politics editor and the SANEF chair.
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