ANC branches in eThekwini rally behind former President Jacob Zuma during a rally. Picture: Screen Grab.
ANC branches in eThekwini rally behind former President Jacob Zuma during a rally. Picture: Screen Grab.

Step aside: RET claim policy targets former president Jacob Zuma’s allies

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published May 10, 2021

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DURBAN - AN INTERNAL ANC radical transformation lobby group has called for an urgent review of the step-aside resolution, arguing that the policy was being exploited to destroy former president Jacob Zuma’s perceived allies.

The Radical Economic Transformation Champion (RETC) body yesterday said the policy should be reviewed and called for a sitting of the party’s National General Council (NGC) to deal with the issue.

The body vowed to lobby “friends from African countries” to form a human shield around the embattled former head of state. The group, comprising 68 of the 111 branches in the province’s biggest region, eThekwini, called on the National Executive Committee (NEC) to lift the suspension of secretary-general Ace Magashule, arguing it was invalid.

Supported by interfaith organisations and the ANC Youth League, the RETC said it expected its comrades to neither heed the step-aside rule nor be suspended for disobeying it until its implementation plan was discussed with all party structures.

Those affected by the controversial policy include former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and two city councillors Zoe Shabalala and Thembelihle De Lange, among others.

In a veiled malicious intent against leaders perceived to be sympathetic to Zuma and his radical transformation agenda, the NEC had amended and misinterpreted the resolution of the 54th conference, the group argued.

“The NEC has no powers to amend any conference resolution without proper consultation with the members of the ANC, branches and structures,” it said.“The resolution says you must only summarily suspend those ‘who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down’ – there must be an organisational process. In this instance, the ANC only issued a media statement and never consulted structures.

“The NEC has failed to consult branches … and rushed to implement guidelines lacking in terms of recourse for members. The NEC has only been communicating with the media; not a single communique or meeting has been convened to deal with these matters of guidelines,” RETC spokesperson Ntando Khuzwayo said. If members implicated in corruption failed to step aside, a disciplinary process ought to kick in rather than the National Working Committee hastening to recommend suspensions.

Citing expropriation of land without compensation and the proposed free education resolutions, the group argued that a number of conference resolutions had been ignored, while the step aside was being selectively abused to target certain leaders, through the factional National Prosecuting Authority.

Khuzwayo said the ANC was being given 90 days to hold an NGC meeting to deal with implementation challenges on all resolutions of the Nasrec national conference, failing which, he said, branches would call for an early national conference to elect new leadership.

Calling for the immediate reinstatement of Magashule, the RETC said his suspension and counter-suspension of President Cyril Ramaphosa had all the hallmarks of turning the ANC into the world’s laughing stock.

“To suspend any ANC officials requires a process, but doing it in a factional manner will have the potential of dividing the organisation, the group said, adding the divisions in the NEC had begun to trickle down to dividing lower structures which were not as divided.

“The suspension of a secretary-general is unprecedented and will have long lasting consequences, even if he is gone. We view this as part of the plot to weaken the ANC to force it into a coalition with the DA.”

ANC Youth League spokesperson Mandla Shange said: “The step aside still needs to be clarified to address issues such as what happens when a ward councillor steps aside? Do you hold a by-election or is that council dissolved?”

ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said the KZN Provincial Executive Committee was fully behind the stepaside decision relating to full-time office bearers such as Magashule, but the NEC had to discuss implementation of the rule further and allow each province to develop its own manner of implementation as circumstances would differ.

Professor Sipho Seepe, of the University of Zululand, said the step-aside ruling was being read with factional eyes. “Steps by the ANC must comply with the country’s Constitution stating all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Being charged by ‘a partisan National Prosecuting Authority’ is no proof of one’s guilt.” Those summarily dismissed without due process were within their rights to approach the courts, he said.

THE ANC under President Cyril Ramaphosa faces a major backlash for its decision to suspend secretary-general Ace Magashule.

Magashule was served with a suspension letter on Monday last week, following charges of fraud and corruption having been laid against him in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court in November last year.

In March this year, the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) urged all those senior members charged with criminal offences or corruption to step aside or face suspension. The party gave all implicated individuals 30 days to step aside, but Magashule and ANC MP and former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo failed to comply with the order.

The two were served with suspension letters on Monday last week. Two days later, Magashule also served ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa with a letter of suspension, saying he had also been named in acts of wrongdoing, but the ANC NEC rejected Magashule’s letter.

Magashule and Bongo were also barred from participating in the NEC meeting over the weekend in a clear show of support for Ramaphosa’s leadership.

Leaked audio from the virtual NEC meeting revealed that former president Thabo Mbeki also urged members to seriously consider submissions made by Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha, the ANC Women’s League leader Bathabile Dlamini and secretary-general Meokgo Motuba about the state of the ANC. Mathabatha raised the issue of hatred among ANC members within the party.

“Comrades in the ANC, we hate each other more than they hate the enemy or the opposition,” Mathabatha said. He asked the party to consider holding a retreat for two or three days to deal with the differences within the party.

Mbeki said the ANC must discuss whether there was still an organisation called the ANC. Mbeki urged his fellow NEC members to take to heart the comment made by Mathabatha and the Women’s League duo. Dlamini and Motuba were adamant that the ANC “was about to collapse”.

Despite Magashule’s absence at the meeting, his supporters lodged a fightback inside the virtual NEC meeting by calling for a discussion on Ramaphosa’s purported “suspension”.

Leading the charge was the ANC’s Dakota Legoete – a close ally of Magashule – who urged Ramaphosa, in another clip leaked to the media, to be the leader of the ANC and not “president of a faction”. Legoete said that many people in the ANC were accused of corruption.

“I think the matter of the suspension letters must be made clear when we leave this meeting. The other point that I think we have reached is that this NEC will become a liability to the nation and the structures. Narrow factions are not helping the movement,” said Legoete.

“I want to propose to provinces, regions and branches that we must either consider Rule 29 of the constitution of having a special conference. That’s because we have reached a point where we are not dealing with proper service delivery despite the pandemic, jobs, investments and infrastructure roll-out. We are stuck. If some of us are not prepared to repent and help the movement, move forward, then we must go for a special conference and apply Rule 29. We can’t continue like this,” he said.

In his address to the North West Pastors’ Forum, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo was very critical of his party’s decision to suspend Magashule, asking what it would do if Magashule was acquitted in a court of law.

“Some of the ANC’s resolutions taken at the national conference are in conflict with the laws of the Republic. Let us not judge them while facing charges in court.

“What will happen if they are acquitted on all charges against them?” Mahumapelo asked.

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