Tony Yengeni says Ace is here to stay
ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member Tony Yengeni came out in defence of Ace Magashule yesterday, saying the party’s secretary-general would only be removed from his position by the branches that elected him.
Yengeni was one of several high-profile ANC members who came out to support Magashule as he appeared at the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court to face 21 charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud. He has been released on R200 000 bail.
The charges related to a 2014 Free State asbestos audit project which was awarded under questionable circumstances. Magashule and a string of businessmen and government officials will be back in court on February 21.
Some of the high profile names seen both inside and outside the court include former North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, former minister Malusi Gigaba, ANC MP Bongani Bongo and Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina.
The politicians stood up on a stage set up outside court in the afternoon, and addressed hundreds of people in attendance to support Magashule. Most of those in attendance were dressed in ANC colours and were carrying the party's flag.
Buses carrying supporters from Gauteng, Limpopo and the North West began arriving on Thursday.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte had said, at a media briefing on Wednesday, the party would not stop any individual member from supporting Magashule, but not in the party's name.
Yengeni said during a short speech that all those in attendance at court should wear their ANC colours proudly and that they were there in the party's name – a clear contrast to what the ANC top leadership had decided.
"We are here in numbers from all the structures of the ANC. Yesterday the top six had a press conference. The officials pledged their support for comrade Ace Magashule.
"We are not here as individuals, we are not here as just friends, we are not here as a faction. We are representing the ANC. That is why we are here wearing ANC colours. We make no apologies for coming here and supporting the SG and wearing ANC colours," Yengeni said to cheers from the crowd.
He also said Magashule would not be removed by anyone besides the branches that elected him.
Yengeni kept on referring to stolen votes at the ANC's Nasrec conference. President Cyril Ramaphosa's win at the 2017 conference had been marred by allegations that he bought votes from branches.
"Comrade Magashule was not elected by buying delegates at the conference. He was not elected by buying branches at Nasrec. We do not have billions, we have the power of unity. We are going to defeat the money merchants, those who buy branches to win office.
“Buying branches is corruption of the highest order," Yengeni said.
Magashule also took to the podium and said he would face the charges and that he would not be stepping down.
He alluded to the fact that he would reveal secrets of his detractors about corrupt activity they were involved in. He said he had long supported citizens of the Free State.
Magashule also told supporters that the ANC will hold its January 8th statement in Bloemfontein on January 8, and that the national general council, which was scheduled for this year, would take place in May.
"I said I do not want a T-shirt with my face because a T-shirt must be the face of the leader of the ANC. No, I do not teach you wrong politics when you are angry you must never do that, because you are destroying the brand of the ANC, it does not belong to any individual," Magashule told his supporters.