File photo: President Jacob Zuma, left, and Blade Nzimande at the Workers' Day rally in Bloemfontein.
Johannesburg - Free State Premier Ace Magashule faces a revolt for his alleged plan to “purge” government employees who participated in the May Day protests in Bloemfontein where President Jacob Zuma was booed and heckled.

It has since emerged that Magashule has taken his alleged witch-hunt a step further by targeting employees who participated in the recent protests to demand Zuma’s resignation. The actions at the Union Buildings, led by political parties and civil society organisations and attended by thousands, were triggered by the President’s cabinet reshuffle.

Magashule said following the booing, which led to the cancellation of the May Day speeches, he was going to study video footage.

The premier is said to have last week summoned all heads of department in the province to his boardroom, where he allegedly instructed them to start preparing dismissal letters for the dissenters.

On Friday, it was reported that Teboho Loate, the chief director in the province’s Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, was suspended for his alleged participation and statements at a protest against Zuma.

Now, several employees in the provincial government are said to be mobilising against the alleged plan to purge them, which they say is draconian and motivated by factional politics. They accuse Magashule of waging a proxy war to protect Zuma.

Magashule forms part of the “Premier League”, a clandestine political grouping that consists of Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and his North West counterpart, Supra Mahumapelo.

So determined are the Free State workers to fight Magashule that a WhatsApp chat group has been created to amplify their defiance. They have threatened to go to court to fight what they see as unfair dismissals and discrimination.

“So don’t worry about what Ace and his cronies are doing. Know you are protected by the CCMA, the majority of the bargaining councils and the labour courts against his vindictive actions,” reads a WhatsApp message.

“Stand up and fight for your rights. Ace can’t muzzle people like (the) apartheid system used to do. Those days are gone and will never see the light again, unless of course Ace is allowed to move up the echelons of the ANC and Zuma’s proxy is elected to replace him.”

The employees also make it clear that their defiance is meant to defend the country against the alleged state capture by the Gupta family. “Stand up and protect what’s left of our gains and take part in any demonstrations aimed at stopping the Zuptas from messing up our country beyond this.”

The fightback came as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s backers in the the Northern Cape took a swipe at Magashule after he accused them of having instigated the May Day anti-Zuma protests.

Northern Cape ANC provincial secretary Zamani Saul said the accusations were bizarre as their members did not attend the Bloemfontein rally. “Comrade Ace used us as a scapegoat. We had two May Day rallies in the province, one was held in Upington and the other in De Aar. Members of the ANC in Kimberley attended the De Aar rally,” Saul said.

The ANC in the Northern Cape looks set to become the first provincial body to officially announce Ramaphosa as Zuma’s successor when it holds its provincial conference from Thursday until Sunday. Saul’s camp is seen as having the sway over the premier, Sylvia Lucas, a known Zuma supporter.

However, disputes over the selection of delegates persist and there are concerns that this could affect the conference. The conference was initially scheduled for February but had to be postponed following several disputes over the delegates nomination process, according to Saul.

So serious were the disputes that ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy, Jesse Duarte, twice visited the province to try to resolve the problem. The pair then formed a task team to do the verifications of all branch general meetings and to attend to all disputes.

“The task team were given two weeks to complete their work but had to do it in three weeks due to the distance between the towns. They went to all regions and completed their report, which was presented and adopted at the last ANC national executive committee,” Saul said.

He said, however, that the contents of the report were challenged by the Premier League before it was eventually adopted by the ANC national executive committee (NEC). “While I can’t comment on what transpired in the NEC, the report was indeed challenged but Comrade Gwede stood up and gave a substantial response which later led to the report being adopted,” Saul said.

But insiders told The Sunday Independent that the failed bid to reject the report was aimed at further delaying the Northern Cape from holding its conference. Sources said the “Premier League” feared that if the conference went ahead, Ramaphosa was likely to be pronounced as Zuma’s successor.

Another bid was made to stall the conference after Saul was served with a letter of demand from a Joburg law firm two weeks ago, but this was rejected.

“People are positioning themselves along the lines of the national political dynamics in the ANC. As the ANC provincial executive committee, we made it clear that the national dynamics were putting a strain on our preparations for the conference,” Saul said.

In a clear indication that Ramaphosa is taking his election campaign to Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, he launched the OR Tambo Fridays in Ivory Park, Midrand, where he was flanked by Dr Mathole Motshekga, his wife Angie Motshekga and the Reverend Frank Chikane.

Ramaphosa contradicted Zuma for claiming that booing was part of the culture of democracy.

The ANC Youth League recently threatened to disrupt Ramaphosa’s public address in retaliation to the booing of Zuma.

“We must not be seen as people who insult others, people who are going to be trying to stop the meetings of other people,” Ramaphosa said.

“We are united and we must allow people to express themselves because we know that we are the bearers of good news and the truth, we have a historic responsibility to unite not only our communities, but the people of South Africa.”

Ramaphosa also spoke out against corruption and the scramble for resources, which he said was the source of divisions within the ANC.

“Never let money come between you and your comrades. If you allow that, then this unity that you have as a zone will be destroyed. We should build values and principles founded by the ANC,” he said.

Sunday Independent