'I’m not a public representative': Ace Magashule on not stepping aside
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, speaking about the fierce “step aside” debate within the party, said calls for him to temporarily remove himself from his job were ill-informed as he was not a public representative.
Magashule was speaking to TimesLIVE during a door-to-door campaign in Naledi, Soweto, on Friday.
Magashule said he was concerned that only ANC leaders were being asked to step aside from their positions when facing allegations of wrongdoing, including criminal charges.
He said when DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach faced charges from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in 2018, nobody asked her to step aside.
Breytenbach was acquitted on charges of defeating the ends of justice in 2018.
Magashule is facing 21 charges of corruption related to the Free State asbestos tender of more than R200m, awarded during his time as premier in the province.
The ANC strongman has refused to step aside from his position in line with a party conference resolution taken in 2017, saying only ANC branches could remove him.
“There’s nobody who has called for [Glynnis] Breytenbach, when she was charged, to step aside, get out of parliament.
“I’m not in parliament, I’m not a public representative; there isn’t any, what they call in parliament they declare in parliament, they take some oath. I’m not a public rep, therefore it is important to give law enforcement agencies space and time to prove our guilt or innocence,” he said.
Magashule also said legal advice received by the ANC stated that the party was in no position to take action against any of its members until their court cases were concluded, to avoid prejudice.
That legal advice was expected to be the subject of intense discussion at the party's national executive committee (NEC) meeting scheduled for this weekend.
The NEC is the ANC's highest decision-making body in between national congresses.
“Well, the legal advice is that presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle universally, and therefore in terms of our constitution of South Africa and the constitution of the ANC. If you talk about those constitutions they do include issues of morality,” said Magashule.
“Therefore if you speak and explain something now [internally], you might actually be prejudicing yourself, because even the law enforcement agencies can go to - an integrity commission - and want to hear [what you said], because access to information is important, so you’re actually exposing yourself to public opinion. That’s why this presumption of innocence is very important.”
Several ANC leaders facing criminal charges, such as MP Bongani Bongo and former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede have refused to step aside, saying they were innocent until proven guilty, a move that forced the ANC to seek legal advice.
Magashule said forcing leaders to step aside so that they were sidelined for years was “perpetual torture” and a deliberate attempt to weaken them. He said it was “high time that South Africans see what is actually happening”.
He also vowed to continue asking for donations from business people, saying this money was not for his benefit but was for sending children to study overseas.
He said 100 more students across the country were set to benefit from this, including four signed up during his door-to-door campaign in Naledi.
“No, I’m continuing. I’m going to go to both black and white businesses because it’s both black and white businesses who have ensured that some of the students who are studying outside the country are continuing to study.
“It’s not just people who are getting government tenders and what have you, it’s genuine black and white people who are prepared to assist our students, especially the poor.”