'I volunteered': Magashule ahead of crucial date with ANC's integrity body

09 December 2020 - 20:47
By kgothatso madisa AND Kgothatso Madisa
Ace Magashule is charged on 21 corruption-related counts and is on R200,000 bail but is clinging to his post as ANC secretary-general.
Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko Ace Magashule is charged on 21 corruption-related counts and is on R200,000 bail but is clinging to his post as ANC secretary-general.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has insisted that his scheduled appearance before the party’s integrity commission on Saturday was his own initiative and he was not persuaded to appear by the national executive committee of the ANC.

Magashule is due to appear before the commission to explain himself after he was charged with 21 corruption-related charges linked to a R230m asbestos-eradication tender awarded during his time as Free State premier.

Magashule is out on R200,000 bail.

Speaking during a door-to-door campaign at the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Ekurhuleni, Magashule said his appearance at the commission was voluntary.

“Well, remember that when I was charged and told that I must appear before the court I immediately informed the integrity commission because that’s the right thing to do. I volunteered to see them and we agreed on the date and, of course, I’ll be going to the integrity commission,” Magashule said.

It is not known whether he will answer questions, telling journalists on Wednesday that he did not want to pre-empt how the meeting would go.

Magashule previously told TimesLIVE that legal advice he had received was that the party was in no position to take action against any of its members until their court cases were concluded, to avoid prejudice. Magashule said at the time the presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle universally, and that both the country's and the ANC's constitutions include issues of morality.

“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.”

A compromise was made during the party’s three-day national executive committee (NEC) meeting this week, its highest decision-making body between national conferences, that Magashule’s future should rather be decided by the integrity commission.

The debate was around whether he should step aside until his court case is finalised as per a party resolution.

Magashule had earlier indicated his unwillingness to step down, saying that only the branches, at a national conference, can make that decision as he was elected by them.

This became so problematic that the party had to solicit advice from top legal minds in the country, most of whom cautioned the ANC against forcing anyone to step aside, saying such a move would be unlawful.

The NEC accepted this but agreed that party resolutions must take precedence, keeping in mind that they should still be within the confines of the constitution.

The meeting agreed that a report from the integrity commission will determine steps that are to be taken against Magashule.

“The ANC is not in any crisis. As I said, we had a wonderful meeting where all of us expressed our views and at the end the collective came to a particular conclusion which we are all happy about — which is how the ANC functions,” said Magashule.

“There isn’t any resolution of the conference which can be reviewed by us as the NEC, all conference resolutions of the national conference at Nasrec are binding on all of us and whenever there are issues the leadership will deal with such issues,” Magashule said.