ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - The ANC’S most contested position is undoubtedly that of secretary-general, presently held by Elias “Ace” Magashule.

At the party’s watershed election in Nasrec in 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa was elected ANC president and David Mabuza deputy president. But for Magashule it’s been a wrestle to keep his position from day one.

Looming are the ANC’s chairperson Gwede Mantashe and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile.

Magashule’s exclusive interview with Independent Media took place in a Joburg hotel on Thursday night.

Dressed in a navy Polo shirt and jacket, he greeted the staff, ordering only water. Those in the know say he never consumes alcohol.

Magashule cleared his throat for what he said would be the most candid he has ever been.

He addressed the elephant in the room about former president Jacob Zuma, who is having his day in court in relation to the arms deal.

“The youth has long taken a position that former president Zuma must be supported,” Magashule said.

“I don’t know the intricate details of the arms deal, but it’s strange that the Seriti commission was struck off, after spending so much money.

“If the findings of a judicial commission of inquiry are struck off so that someone can be re-charged for a matter that was previously dropped, Zuma can take that to court. It’s what I would do.”

“Commissions and court cases should not be used to settle old political scores.”

The Seriti commission, which was appointed to probe allegations of corruption and fraud during the arms deal from 1999 until 2003, had “materially failed to do a job which it was appointed to do”.

This was the damning ruling of the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday morning following an application by two civil society organisations, Corruption Watch and Right2Know Campaign, to set aside the ruling of Judge Willie Seriti.

Asked if he knows anything about the death of Dr Louis Siemens in the Free State as reported in the newspaper, City Press, Magashule’s face clouds over.

“I will not breathe oxygen into nonsense. Where and when did this alleged murder involving me happen? And how am I involved? Many of you take the issue of regime change for granted. We in the ANC know what we’re talking about.

“There are agencies working extra hard to convict and assassinate my character and the character of many other comrades. We know who they are and we will not be quiet any longer.”

The allegations against Magashule were contained in an email that the City Press recently sent to Magashule. Although the paper didn’t publish the article as planned, Magashule spoke about the question.

“City Press sent me questions, yes. They know I know nothing about any murder, but because they are assigned to find some dirt on me, they sent the questions in a bid to make a headline out of my response.”

Magashule’s name was not listed among the eight accused of Siemens’ death.

According to the court papers, Siemens was a businessman and director of a private City Med Hospital. He had approached the Free State Department of Health asking for the hospital’s operating licence to be altered in order to increase the number of beds.

Magashule’s rise through the ranks of the ANC has been meteoric and with it has come controversy.

Most of the ANC’s previous secretaries-general have had trade union backgrounds, but Magashule is the exception. Some of his predecessors include Sol Plaatje, James Calata, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Philemon Nokwe, Alfred Nzo, Ramaphosa and Kgalema Motlanthe.

No stranger to power, Magashule was the premier of the Free State from 2009 until last year. His entry into political activism decades earlier was spurred by a desire to lift people out of the despair brought on by the racist apartheid regime.

In 1982, while a student at the University of Fort Hare, Magashule was arrested for his political activism and charged with high treason.

Testimony at the Zondo commission of inquiry described him as someone who blatantly abused his power and laundered money from the public purse.

In January last year, the Hawks raided Magashule’s offices in connection with the Vrede Dairy Project, which has been described as a project to assist emerging farmers, but was a scheme to steal from the Free State Department of Agriculture.

After the May general election, Magashule revealed that, as secretary-general he would hold the ANC to account on policy issues that were crucial to the future of the country, but had been sidelined because of the sensitivity or controversy that surrounded them.

“The ANC is under attack. As a revolutionary movement, we are under serious attack. There are those who want to finish the organisation.

“Their issue with me is that I don’t compromise about the mission to make life better for Africans and black people in particular. There are allegations against all of us, even about Bosasa and about Marikana. But we must work to make life better for all our people,” Magashule said.

“I know about the plans to implicate me about playing a role in the formation of ATM (the African Transformation Movement party). There has been an investigation into that, but nothing has been done. I have people who have told me that they were paid to say things about me. Some were promised deployments if they come and say Magashule did this and that, Magashule said this and that. I know all that. But I am a leader, I must continue with my work.”

He confirmed that he was taking legal action against former general secretary of the messianic churches Buyisile Ngqulwana and wanted him to apologise for alleging that he was the brains behind the formation of ATM.

The ATM has backed Magashule in his lawsuit against Ngqulwana over his allegation that Magashule helped form the party.

Magashule is also suing Ngqulwana for R500 000 as he claims the allegations against him damaged his reputation as a leader of the ANC.

Asked if the ANC was going to proceed with charges of opposing party rules against ANC national executive committee member Derek Hanekom after he admitted that he had met the leadership of the EFF in a joint bid to remove Zuma from power, Magashule answered: “That is for you the media and society to see if the ANC is dealing fairly.

“It is for you to see if it is right to hold a commission for someone for allegedly helping another party even though the party says it did not happen and ignoring an ANC member who confessed to assisting an opposition party remove a president the ANC elected.”

Political Bureau