South Africa

Defiant Magashule throws down gauntlet as ANC NEC holds special meeting

JOHANNESBURG - In between calls for embattled African National Congress (ANC) leader Ace Magashule to be permanently expelled and gasps at the party for daring to suspend a sitting secretary-general, its national executive committee (NEC) will this weekend face a stress test measuring its own resolve to clean up its image and renew itself.

This on the back of an extraordinarily tumultuous week for the ANC, which saw it suspending its secretary-general and him, in turn, writing a futile letter suspending the president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

READ: Cyril Ramaphosa to ANC: Ace Magashule's letter to me is null and void

Then a defiant Magashule refused to vacate office and moved to further discredit those he served alongside in the NEC during an interview with the SABC.

The structure, which is the ANC’s highest decision-making body in between conferences, will hold a special meeting from Saturday to Monday where it is expected to discuss COVID-19 and vaccines, the upcoming local government elections, the integrity commission’s reports and the now controversial 2017 conference resolution for members who are facing serious charges to step aside.

Magashule is adamant that his bid to appeal the sanction against him means he remains in his office and able to discharge his duties as per usual, this in spite of a suspension letter from his deputy, Jessie Duarte, barring him from carrying out duties on behalf of the secretary-general’s office, representing the party publicly, mobilising for the party and even making pronouncements on matters that affect the ANC.

LISTEN: Ace Magashule: I'm not going anywhere

According to the letter, Magashule’s suspension would be reviewed every six months.

Magashule has accused his comrades of selectively applying the 2017 resolutions, saying that Ramaphosa should also be suspended as he was facing allegations of vote-buying during his campaign for the ANC presidency.

He has consistently argued for the resolution around the points listed under fighting crime and corruption, saying that the party resolved that even those marred by corruption allegations should also step aside. His detractors, however, have argued that his suspension was under section 25.70 of the party constitution, which calls for representatives, office-bearers and members indicted to appear in court to be placed under temporary suspension and impose terms that limit their participation and conduct in the party.

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This is one of the issues expected to be contested at the NEC, as it imposes a temporary suspension, without offering room for an appeal, while the guidelines adopted on the step aside resolution last month compel the party to establish an independent body to review matters, including integrity commission reports.

But the ANC’s most senior leaders might not even get to that issue as the two warring factions are already at odds over Magashule’s threat to attend, with the majority view being that he should not be allowed to participate, while his supporters plan to frustrate the meeting if he’s left out in the cold.

Some of the issues expected to also be “hot topics” at the gathering include the independent body to review suspensions, with some of the embattled secretary-general’s supporters already claiming that names put forward by the national working committee (NWC) showed a bias against Magashule, as some panel members were part of the 101 stalwarts grouping which had called for former President Jacob Zuma’s and his NEC’s removal.

ANC veterans proposed to make up the independent body include Johnny de Lange, Brigitte Mabandla, Vusi Khanyile, Barbra Masekela and Josiah Jele.

Others in the party want Magashule’s position to be occupied by an interim leader, in spite of the constitution automatically placing his deputy in charge. They claim that Duarte has been rattled by recent developments and are worried about her ability to rise to the occasion, especially with the next conference 18 months away.

Duarte, however, told Eyewitness News last month that she was not scared, nor confused and would carry out ANC policy positions diligently.

LISTEN: ANC vs ANC: Jessie Duarte throws down the gauntlet to Ace Magashule

The ANC has not in recent history suspended a secretary-general but in democratic South Africa has recalled two presidents.

Former President Thabo Mbeki gracefully accepted the recall while his successor, Jacob Zuma, put up a fight but eventually accepted the NEC's decision and eventually resigned from office.

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