Ace vs ANC: Magashule in high spirits ahead of two-day court battle
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Cape Town – A full bench of the South Gauteng High Court will on Thursday start hearing arguments in Ace Magashule’s bid to overturn his suspension as ANC secretary-general.
Judges Jody Kollapen, Sharise Weiner and Edwin Molahlehi will preside over the corruption-accused former Free State premier’s two-day urgent application to have the ANC’s step-aside rule declared unlawful.
Magashule also wants the letter suspending him, issued early last month, to be deemed unlawful, unconstitutional, invalid and null and/or void ab initio.
The High Court is scheduled to virtually hear the matter on Thursday and Friday. His court application against the national executive committee (NEC) comes as calls for the ANC to part ways with Magashule grow louder.
But some of his supporters were still hoping Magashule would abandon the bid and instead focus on challenging the National Prosecuting Authority’s charges against him.
Speaking to eNCA in his hometown, Parys, Free State, on Wednesday, an unrepentant Magashule was in good spirits and said the decision to suspend him was political, vowing that it would be revealed in court.
’’I have been jumping like a tennis ball. I’m flying higher and higher today like an eagle. I’m in good spirit and high morale.
“I’m still prepared to engage the organisation but I’m doing this in the light of the resolution of conference which people now want to overrule. There are about nine to 10 clauses in terms of fighting corruption and I will prove in court that this is political witch hunt,” Magashule said.
According to papers filed at the High Court last month, Magashule has asked that his unilateral suspension of President Cyril Ramaphosa be declared valid and effective until lawfully nullified, and the governing party’s instruction – that he apologise for issuing the letter purportedly suspending Ramaphosa – to be found to be unlawful and unenforceable.
Magashule wants his suspension set aside and to be restored to the position he held at the ANC’s headquarters Luthuli House as at May 5, the day he was suspended.
He told the court it is his “fervent and steadfast belief that factionalism and not the face of some new-found anti-corruption clean-up is what lies behind his unlawful, radical and premature suspension”.
”The real motive behind my being purged is the desire to remove me, by hook or crook, from the all-powerful position of secretary-general, so that the road to the re-election of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his faction in the next conference is made easier,” he states in his affidavit.
Magashule has been charged in relation to the R255 million project to eradicate asbestos roofs in houses in the Free State during his time as the province’s premier.
The fraud, corruption and money laundering accused and his 15 co-accused were released are due to return to the Free State High Court on August 11 for a pre-trial conference after their case was transferred from the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court.
However, Magashule has described the charges against him as an “oddity if not a downright absurdity” and that at meeting he attended the ANC national officials “unanimously and correctly” came to the conclusion that they were frivolous and unsustainable.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, however, effectively accused Magashule of downplaying the criminal charges he is facing.
”The applicant (Magashule) trivialises the charges against him and suggests that they are ‘and oddity, if not a downright’ and that they are frivolous. But that is of course not so. The charges against him are very serious charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering,” Duarte said in her answering affidavit.
In its response to Magashule, the ANC stated that its national working committee was satisfied it was in its best interest to suspend persons facing charges of corruption and other serious crimes.
Duarte described Magashule’s letter suspending Ramaphosa as retaliatory and disputed his claims that he was suspended for issuing the president’s letter of suspension.
She also denied Magashule’s claim that he lawfully suspended Ramaphosa and that his application is not urgent as the step-aside resolution has been in place since December 2017.
The ANC has asked the high court to dismiss Magashule’s application with costs.
Magashule will be represented by Dali Mpofu SC, while the ANC’s legal team includes Wim Trengove SC, Ngwako Maenetje, Fana Nalane SC and junior counsel Buhle Lekokotla.
Former ANC KwaZulu-Natal deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu and a member of its national executive committee, Mduduzi Manana, have also filed affidavits in support of the party’s case against Magashule.
Magashule said there were ANC members in Parliament and in its structures who wanted to join him in his court bid, but he discouraged them.
“(In court) we’re going to clarify issues of some of the resolutions of conference. Where do you get that final clarity? Through the courts.
’’(As the NEC), we had four or five legal opinions and nobody wants to take those legal opinions. What was the use of getting those legal opinions? How many people were charged before me after Nasrec conference.
“I am not defiant. I’m talking about the rights enshrined in the Constitution, the bill of rights which I fought for. The rights which are enshrined also in the ANC constitution. You are innocent until proven otherwise. What else should I do,” Magashule told enCA.