ANC NEC's busy weekend of decisions — and it spells bad news for Magashule

14 February 2021 - 22:46
The ANC NEC has resolved to adopt guidelines calling for those facing criminal charges before courts of law to immediately step aside, which spells bad news for secretary-general Ace Magashule, who is scheduled to appear in the Bloemfontein high court on 21 corruption charges on Friday. File photo.
The ANC NEC has resolved to adopt guidelines calling for those facing criminal charges before courts of law to immediately step aside, which spells bad news for secretary-general Ace Magashule, who is scheduled to appear in the Bloemfontein high court on 21 corruption charges on Friday. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

The ANC's national executive committee this weekend took significant decisions relating to controversial issues plaguing the party at its meeting that ended on Sunday.

The NEC — the ANC's highest decision-making body in between national conferences — has appointed former president Kgalema Motlanthe to lead a party election committee to select candidates ahead of this year's municipal elections.

The party has also decided that its leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, should lead its presentation related to allegations of state capture before the Zondo commission.

The meeting has also decided to disband the current interim leadership of the ANC Youth League to allow for the election of new leaders who are under the age of 35. This following protests by young ANC members opposed to the “interim leadership”, meaning people in their 40s.

But most crucially, the ANC NEC has resolved to adopt newly drafted guidelines calling for those facing criminal charges before courts of law to immediately step aside, which spells bad news for secretary-general Ace Magashule, who is scheduled to appear in the Bloemfontein high court on 21 corruption charges on Friday.

This was announced in Ramaphosa's closing remarks at the NEC meeting on Sunday night.

Magashule is out on bail of R200,000 after he was charged with corruption for his alleged criminal conduct in the awarding of a multi-million-rand tender to eradicate asbestos roofing in townships surrounding Bloemfontein during his time as Free State premier.

Since then, there have been mounting calls for Magashule to step aside — but he has refused to do, saying only ANC branches that elected him had the authority to make that call. He said the ANC's step aside resolution would not pass legal muster because he had not been found guilty of any crime.

But the new guidelines on the step aside issue — developed by party veterans such as Motlanthe, Matthews Phosa and current treasurer-general Paul Mashatile — will make life difficult for Magashule and other prominent ANC figures facing criminal charges. These regulations make clear that such people have to step aside from their positions to protect the integrity of the party.

However, before the guidelines could be implemented they would have to be refined in consultation with provinces and the party’s national working committee.

The ANC NEC this weekend decided that the processes preceding the implementation of the guidelines must be completed within the next 30 days.

Should the guidelines be implemented after consultations with branches, Magashule and others would have to step down from their positions until their cases have been finalised.

The guidelines make it clear that those who face criminal charges in court must immediately step aside from their positions and present themselves to the party’s integrity commission.

Should that member fail to voluntarily step aside, based on the seriousness of the charges, disciplinary processes must then commence and the member be summarily suspended.

The other option is for the member to be referred to the integrity commission, which can recommend that the member be asked to step aside.

Should they still fail to step aside after the recommendation and subsequent NEC decision, disciplinary processes may commence and the member be summarily suspended.

In his closing remarks on Sunday night, Ramaphosa said: “The NEC meeting adopted guidelines on implementing resolutions of the 54th conference on members and leaders in conflict with the law or accused of serious misdemeanours.

“This is fundamental to the renewal of our movement and to strengthening the integrity and credibility of the ANC.”

Ramaphosa said the guidelines, dubbed as “historic”, were critical to the ANC’s programme of renewal, which has dealing with corruption as one of its focus points.

In a veiled message to Magashule, Ramaphosa said it was incumbent upon members facing criminal charges to step aside voluntarily and not wait to be forced.

“It should be emphasised that the starting point in realising the conference’s resolutions on this matter is reliance on the revolutionary conscience of members and leaders — for affected individuals themselves to act voluntarily without compulsion from the movement’s structures.

“We, therefore, call on affected members to act in the interest of protecting the reputation of the movement by acting accordingly,” Ramaphosa said.

The reports and recommendations of the party integrity commission will now have to be processed by the NEC.

These would include the recommendation made by the commission last year that Magashule immediately step aside from his position.

“Now that we have adopted the guidelines, the officials will process all the reports of the integrity committee that have been placed before the NEC, with a view to returning to the NEC with a full report within one month,” Ramaphosa said.

“In the meantime, the NEC calls on affected members to act in the interest of protecting and enhancing the integrity and credibility of the organisation and step aside voluntarily in line with the recommendations of the integrity commission and the conference resolution,” he added.

The NEC also approved names of people to serve on the electoral committee as per the 54th conference resolutions. Motlanthe will chair the committee, which is tasked with assisting the ANC “to put forward the best and most credible candidates for all elections”.

Ramaphosa said the NEC had reiterated its support for the Zondo commission and urged ANC members, and all South Africans, to co-operate with it.

This is as the party's top leadership are in a last-minute attempt to convince former president Jacob Zuma to honour the Constitutional Court judgment and appear before the commission from Monday, as scheduled.

Ramaphosa said he would lead a team of ANC leaders that would be making presentations at the commission. He said they would also be using the opportunity to “unequivocally reaffirm the position of the ANC against corruption and state capture, and its impact on the people and country”.

He also took a swipe at Zuma and Magashule for their views and defiance of the Constitutional Court.

“The constitution and the rule of law are sacrosanct components of our democracy and all people in the country must respect these principles. To allow anything else would lead to anarchy and open the floodgates easily for counter-revolution. Corruption and state capture, as well as lawlessness, are against the core principles and values of the ANC,” he said.

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