Ace Magashule’s career ’in limbo’
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KARABO NGOEPE and MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA
The judgment of the High Court in Johannesburg finding in favour of the ANC's suspension of its secretary-general Ace Magashule has jeopardised his political career, according to political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga.
He says the judgment caused more damage than it worked to help the embattled former premier of the Free State.
"The judgment has done more damage to his political career. He is in a worse situation than before he went to court," said Mathekga.
He added that the rule was, in a way, rubber-stamping his removal from the party.
"The judgment paves the way for him to be kicked out of the party forever. He said he would appeal it, but that again gives credence to the party and further damages his chances," said Mathekga.
A full bench of the high court ruled that Magashule's suspension was valid. Magashule sought an order declaring that the ANC’s step-aside rule or regime and rule 25.70 of the party’s constitution are unlawful, unconstitutional, invalid, as well as null and void.
He also sought to have the suspension letter issued by ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on May 5 set aside and declared unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.
The party's step-aside rule requires members facing legal matters to vacate their positions until they have been settled.
The court ruled that the step-aside rule was constitutional and the party was correct to enforce it and request Magashule to step aside.
"We are satisfied, for the reasons that we have given, that the ANC constitution is consistent with that of the country and that the decision to suspend Mr Magashule was: (a) effected in terms of the ANC constitution (b) was precautionary in nature; and (c) complied with the law relevant to precautionary suspension. The application incorporating the relief sought in paragraphs 2.1 to 2.3 is dismissed with costs, including the costs of three counsels," the judges ruled.
Magashule is currently facing fraud and corruption charges in the Bloemfontein High Court relating to an asbestos roofing removal contract that was awarded while he was the premier of the Free State.
The court said it was clear that the party recognised the nature and the extent of corruption and its impact on society. That realisation triggered the need for decisive action by the party.
"...through its constitution, (it) created the model and mechanisms best suited to its structure and needs. Provided that such a model, evidenced by the ANC's constitution, is consistent with the Constitution of South Africa and further, provided that the ANC is loyal to its constitution, it is largely left to the ANC to regulate its internal functioning," the judges said.
They further added that members signed and agreed to abide by the rules and constitution of the party when they decided to join the organisation.
"It is a choice the Court must respect within the limits we have described, but it is also a choice that has consequences for each such member in the context of their associational rights."
Magashule also wanted the Court to ratify his suspension of Ramaphosa and for it to be valid and effective until lawfully nullified. The judges found that the mandatory requirements to effect Ramaphosa's suspension were absent in Magashule's letter.
The judges, however, found that Ramaphosa's suspension was in conflict with the ANC constitution. The High Court also found that the ANC's constitution is consistent with that of the country.
Magashule also lost his application to strike out Ramaphosa's answering affidavit. The judges granted Ramaphosa's application for condonation of the late filing of his answering affidavit.
IOL reported during the hearing that Magashule's legal representative, Adv. Dali Mpofu SC, accused the ANC and its leaders, including deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, of flagrantly disregarding the timetable and displaying a sense of arrogance and entitlement.
Mpofu said the ANC and its leaders ignored the deadlines and used the court as though it was just their side office, which he felt was something that must be deprecated.
"The court must pronounce on this strongly. It deserves the strongest judicial frown," said Mpofu, adding that breach of the High Court's rules was prejudicial.
Professor Sipho Seepe said Magashule's appeal is a ploy to buy himself time while plotting his next move and to frustrate any process within the organisation.
"The appeal is also to buy him some time. Currently, the attitude of the judiciary is very stern. Even if he takes it to review, the decision might be the same," he said.
Seepe added that it will be very difficult for Magashule to win his case as the matter is a temporary suspension and doesn't speak of finding him guilty and expelling him.
"The court will look at if he has been unfairly judged and it's not the case," he said.
Seepe added that Magashule was fortunate to find himself in the predicament he is in while the party was heavily divided.
"If the ANC was united; this would have dealt an end to his career. But there is so much division, it’s not a straightforward thing, but if there were unity, this would have been the end of his career," Seepe said.
Magashule this weekend said he felt the judgment was legally wrong and not in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
"I have therefore instructed my legal team to take immediate steps towards appealing this incorrect judgment. Any judgment which says I was given the right to a hearing by the Integrity Commission in December 2020 in respect of the 30-day deadline, which was only passed by the NEC in March 2021 is obviously wrong. One does not need to be a lawyer to grasp this contradiction," he said.
Magashule further lashed out at the ruling nullifying his suspension of Ramaphosa.
"Also, to say that the suspension of Cde Ramaphosa is invalid, even though it breached the resolution of the Nasrec National Conference, is clearly wrong. Any ANC member knows that no NEC Resolution can trump a Conference Resolution. Even counsel for the ANC accepted this reality. But the court found differently," he said.
Insiders have told the publication that the judgment was a massive blow for Magashule and his supporters. A party member speaking on condition of anonymity said the judgment shook Magashule's supporters.
"We are worried. What transpired with the SG's case and [former] President [Jacob] Zuma's case are giving us sleepless nights. We are really under siege, and we fear that we will be removed from the ANC. We now have no place to turn to when party leaders mistreat us," said the member.
Another member said what transpired was an indication of things to come leading to the conference. He said the release of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report into the Alexandra Renewal Project is another ticking time bomb that is set to deal with members of the Alex Mafia.
"That report will be the groundwork to target members from Gauteng and the so-called Alex Mafia. The season of eliminating opponents is in full swing. Those not in the Thuma Mina faction are all at risk," said the source.
The ANC is currently divided between the Thuma Mina faction, which is backing Ramaphosa, and the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction with Zuma and Magashule's supporters.
The two factions have found themselves at the opposite ends of the spectrum since the Nasrec Conference that saw Ramaphosa clinch the Presidential post from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Since then, it has been a balancing act of trying to appease both factions.