The Ace versus Cyril war begins…
Johannesburg - One of the ANC’s two prominent factions will on Friday strut its power at the ANC’s birthplace in Mangaung in the Free State.
Putting more pressure on the already strained relationship between the ANC top 6 members, the “RET camp” will be out in full force to defend the under siege secretary-general.
Ace Magashule is due at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Friday morning to face charges of failing to exercise oversight and failure to combat criminal activity in a 2014 asbestos tender worth R255 million while he was the premier.
Magashule believes the allegations are politically motivated, primarily because he was on contender Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s slate.
Heading to the ANC’s elective conference in Nasrec in 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa had wanted Senzo Mchunu as his secretary-general.
Two months into Ramaphosa’s presidency, North West premier and backer of Magashule, Supra Mahumapelo, was forced to resign following the ANC’s national executive committee decision.
Magashule’s camp members, including former president Jacob Zuma, have in the last months been hauled before the courts, a move Magashule’s supporters describe as “the use of state organs to fight political battles”.
On Wednesday Magashule told The Star he was committed to fight to the end.
“I’ve told you this before. This is politics. That’s all it is. Politics. How can I be charged with failure of oversight when I was not the accounting officer? Are they going to charge all the premiers? We will see.”
Ramaphosa’s faction is believed to be headed by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe.
Although the Hawks had originally denied the warrant on Magashule, The Star learnt the warrant was signed on October 7 when the news of the warrant broke.
Another of Magashule’s backers, ANC MP Bongani Bongo, was also recently charged with corruption by a Mpumalanga court. Bongo is accused of receiving R300 000 from the Department of Human Settlements while Deputy President David Mabuza was still premier of Mpumalanga.
On the day of Bongo’s court appearance Mabuza released a statement distancing himself from the alleged crime.
Other suspects in the case include Edwin Sodi of Blackhead Consulting and Thabane Zulu, the former DG of the human settlements who are out on bail.
As Magashule appears in court on Friday, a mini-rally is expected outside court where some of his supporters and friends had been gathering for a night vigil in a show of support.
Also in attendance would be some members of Parliament.
Sello Pietersen, the Free State ANC Youth League leader who also speaks for Free State premier, Sisi Ntombela, told The Star that he and other members of the Youth League would be backing Magashule in their personal capacity.
“Thousands of members of the ANCYL in the Free State province will attend the court appearance of the secretary-general... We will also hold a night vigil... in our numbers... as individual members of the ANCYL,” he said.
The ANC’s national spokesperson, Pule Mabe, told the SABC on Wednesday he would go there in his personal capacity.
While Magashule’s lawyer, advocate Victor Nkhwashu, was tight-lipped about their game plan in court on Friday, the secretary-general is expected to receive bail.
In anticipation of a large number of people coming out to support Magashule the spokesperson of Mangaung metro, Qondile Khedama, said two roads around the court would be closed.
“The streets will be closed from midnight until after the court proceedings,” Khedama said on Thursday.
“This is in anticipation of the crowds that might be in attendance.
“Members of the public are requested to use alternative routes,” Khedama added.