'ANC step aside rule targets RET faction'

By Manyane Manyane Time of article published May 15, 2021

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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s faction may have chosen a judicial-legal process to settle political scores after the National Executive Committee (NEC) last week suspended its secretary-general Ace Magashule based on the ANC’s step aside resolution.

According to political analyst Sipho Seepe, the step aside resolution has little to do with the cleaning of corruption, but to settle political scores.

“If that was not the case, the faction would have called for the implementation of the resolution in its entirety. What has been done is to select parts of the resolution that is politically convenient. Going to court will help in exposing this hypocrisy,” he said.

“Many senior ANC members have been implicated in acts of corruption. Affidavits have been disposed of in this regard. Despite this, the NPA has been reluctant to charge these individuals. It would seem such state action is reserved for those seen to be calling for radical transformation of the economy,” said Seepe.

On Friday, Magashule served the party with court papers where he is challenging his suspension while seeking that his suspension letter to Ramaphosa be declared valid.

Nelson Mandela University political analyst Ongama Mtimka called Magashule's approach to the court a sign of desperation to usurp the party's authority and powers.

"He doesn't like, as a matter of principle, the idea of a court to settle ANC political issues. So for him to have done this, he is disheartened about the loss of political power that they had in the leadership structures of the party," he said.

According to another political analyst, Dr Ralph Mathekga, the ANC is in trouble because the current challenges are institutionalised. An example is that if those people implicated in rogue units and others implicated in corruption were asked to step side, half of the party’s leadership would have to go.

“If Magashule is out, it doesn’t mean his politics will be out”.

He added that the ANC cannot renew itself out of one issue.

"But it could give an indication as to how the battle would most look like. I mean, there are many things that are about to come. I don't think the future of the ANC will be decided by this (court action), although it has a real impact on what would most likely happen in the party’s elective conference,” said Mathekga.

Magashule was suspended last week after he refused to comply with the 30-day deadline to voluntarily step down from his position. He was also given until the end of the week to apologise, but he refused.

This is related to his charges of fraud and corruption involving more than R250 million for asbestos eradication that never took place, during his tenure as the Free State Premier.

After his suspension, Magashule’s letter of suspension to Ramaphosa surfaced. He said this was in line with the party’s resolution on members accused and reported to be involved in corruption.

In his 128-page court papers filed at the South Gauteng High Court, Magashule said his suspension of Ramaphosa should be declared valid and effective until lawfully nullified.

The fact that the suspension of Ramaphosa was not given effect was clear evidence of selective justice, he charged.

He wrote the letter of suspension to Ramaphosa on the basis that he has admitted that he used the money to influence the Nasrec Conference outcomes and that he failed to give a satisfactory explanation about his CR17 campaign funding in August 2020.

“He has publicly and under oath admitted to his CR17 campaign having used a minimum of R300 million in order to secure his election to the ANC Presidency at the 2017 Nasrec conference. In his case, therefore, one is not even only dealing with allegations but with an admission,” he said.

Magashule also challenged the party’s instruction for him to apologise for issuing the suspension letter to Ramaphosa to be declared unlawfully and unenforceable.

“I specifically dispute the lawfulness of the instruction that I should apologise for what was a bona fide exercise of my responsibilities as instructed by the National Working Committee (NWC), irrespective of my known private views at the time about the regularity of the step aside regime. Nor do I carry any obligation to carry what is an unlawful instruction according to my conscience.

I can only tender such an apology if this honourable court declares that despite what I have explained, it is warranted in the circumstances, which I dispute. Any apology issued by me before the legal clarity is given by this honourable court would not be genuine or meaningful,” he said.

Magashule, who also wanted the step aside rule of the ANC and the condition the party used to suspend him be declared unconstitutional, invalid, unlawful, null and void, told the high court that he wrote his suspension to Ramaphosa on May 3, before he was suspended on May 5. He said the letter was delayed because he wanted to deliver it physically out of respect of the office he holds.

“It was clearly in reaction (sic) thereto that a letter for my own suspension was hurriedly written within that period and subsequent to my aforesaid letter, and probably backdated to May 3, 2021. It is common cause that a letter was only served to me on May 5.”

“Even if it were to be ultimately found by this honourable court that the suspension letter to the president was indeed somehow unlawful or unauthorised, that cannot conceivably justify the unlawful manner in which the whole issue was clearly handled by Ramaphosa,” added Magashule, who believes that the matter should have been properly tabled and debated.

Magashule said Ramaphosa should have recused himself from deciding the validity of his own suspension and made announcements about the alleged unlawfulness of his own suspension. He added that his side of the story should have been heard.

“What actually took place in relation to this issue would rival the conduct of the worst dictatorships ever witnessed on this planet. It can never be condoned in a democracy of any description,” he said.

Magashule, who backed Nkosana Dlamini Zuma as the ANC presidential candidate at Nasrec, said the motive behind him being purged was the desire to remove him by hook or by crook, from the “all-powerful” position of SG, so that the road to the re-election of Ramaphosa and his faction in the next national conference is made easier.

“I may add that the fears that I would interfere with the democratic process are a misplaced sign of unnecessary panic.”

“It was widely speculated in the media, among membership of the ANC and within society in general that these steps were being taken to target me personally, with the aim of advancing factional agendas and more, specifically, to remove my rights as a member and leader of the ANC to participate in political activities of the ANC and its structures ahead of the next elective national conference to be held in 18 months time. I also share that view for all the reasons mentioned in these papers and which will be expanded upon legal argument,” he said.

The hearing is set for June 1.

NB: Read the comprehensive report in the Sunday Independent tomorrow (May 16, 2021).

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