Ace vs ANC: Ruling to be made ’as quickly as possible’
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Cape Town – Judgment has been reserved in the application brought by suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule against the ruling party.
On the second day of Magashule’s bid to set aside his suspension and to have the ANC’s “step-aside regime” declared unconstitutional, the South Gauteng High Court adjourned proceedings on Friday after committing to return with a judgment sooner rather than later. Magashule is also asking the court to find the suspension letter he issued to party president Cyril Ramaphosa valid.
Judge Jody Kollapen said the court was ’’mindful’’ that the matter was urgent.
“We commit ourselves to doing it as quickly as possible, mindful that the application raises weighty issues of law. You can be assured that we will discharge our duties without fear or favour or prejudice.
’’I think it might be painful, but we are interested to do the work that the Constitution gives us to do,” Judge Kollapen said.
Magashule’s legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu, told a full bench of the court that the matter was about transgressions against the constitution on the ANC's part.
Ramaphosa accused Magashule of shifting goalposts for refusing to step aside despite facing criminal charges. Ramaphosa’s senior counsel, Wim Trengove, said every time Magashule runs into problems in his urgent application, he shifts ground.
Trengove said while Magashule was challenging his suspension and questioning the invalidity of rule 25.70 of the ANC constitution, this was the same clause he purportedly used to suspend Ramaphosa last month.
”These are the extraordinary contradictions in Magashule's own case,” said Trengove.
He said rule 25.70 applied to members who have been indicted to appear in a court of law on any charge.
”We know that this does not apply to the president,” said Trengove, referring to Magashule’s purported suspension of Ramaphosa after he was apparently reported to the Hawks’ serious corruption offences unit and the court cases relating to the unsealing of CR17 ANC presidential campaign documents.
According to Trengove, Magashule’s defence that he has the right to presumption of innocence does not stand as it has nothing to do with civil litigation but only criminal matters.
”The presumption of innocence is confined to the conduct of criminal cases and does not apply to disciplinary procedures,” he explained.
Magashule also argued that the step-aside rule was a broad rule and that the national executive committee has unlawfully narrowed it down.
However, Trengove denied this, saying the NEC did not narrow down the step-aside rule but gave full effect to the conference resolution.
”It’s not correct on the facts… This is a futile attack,” said Trengove.
Trengove said Magashule was in fact himself part of the decision that led to his suspension. He said Magashule had been given a chance to state his side of the story at a meeting of the party's top six officials at Ramaphosa’s house on the eve of his suspension.
Trengove said Magashule mistakenly argued his suspension was invalid because he felt he hadn't been given a fair hearing.
'’This is an extraordinary case where the suspended employee was not merely afforded an opportunity to state his case, which is what (the legal principle of audi alteram partem) requires, but that he was in this unusual position where he actively participated in the decision-making process, in the decision-making structures they took the decision that culminated in his suspension.