D-Day for ANC's 'step aside' guidelines as NEC poised to make vital decision

14 February 2021 - 12:23 By kgothatso madisa
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. File picture.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. File picture.

By the end of Sunday, the ANC could be without a secretary-general — at least as far as the newly formulated “step aside” guidelines are concerned.

However, this is dependent on whether the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), which is sitting this weekend, adopts these guidelines or not.

The NEC is the party’s highest decision-making body in between conferences.

The guidelines have 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.

The much-anticipated guidelines, which were drawn up after secretary-general Ace Magashule’s refusal to step aside in the wake of corruption charges levelled against him in court last year, are being debated at this weekend’s NEC meeting.

TimesLIVE has had sight of a 15-page document on the “step aside” guidelines, which were put together by a team of veteran ANC leaders including former president Kgalema Motlanthe, former treasurer-general Mathews Phosa and current treasurer-general Paul Mashatile.

The party last year finally agreed that only the guidelines could spell out the future of Magashule and others accused of any wrongdoing or facing criminal charges.

The compromise came after the party reached an impasse on Magashule’s fate.

The secretary-general faces at least 21 counts of corruption charges and is currently out on R200,000 bail. He is expected back in court on Friday.

The NEC meeting was adjourned on Saturday before making a decision on the future of Magashule and others, who are facing court actions. At least 20 more speakers were expected to put forward their arguments on the matter on Sunday.

Should they agree to adopt the guidelines, Magashule will have to step aside from his position.

“Stepping aside means that the participation and conduct of a member, office bearer, or public representative, must be guided by the best interests of the organisation, and the undertakings set out in the members’ oath prescribed in rule 4.16,” the document guiding the party on the issue reads.

“This may include relinquishing, forgoing, or refraining from exercising, temporarily or permanently, in whole or in part, her or his rights, duties and responsibilities as a member, office bearer, or public representative.”

After taking the decision to voluntarily step aside, the member must then present themselves at the party’s integrity commission.

However, if the member does not step aside voluntarily, the party, through its structures, may suspend the member while taking them through a disciplinary process.

“The findings and recommendations of the integrity commission will be submitted to the NEC or PEC. Once the NEC or PEC has concluded its deliberations, and taken a decision, the matter will then be made public,” the document reads.

In the case of Magashule, the integrity commission has already recommended that he immediately step aside.

According to insiders, the debate on the adoption of the guidelines, which has potential to seal Magashule’s fate, was expected to be lengthy and heated on Sunday.

News24 reported that at least three NEC members on Saturday called for Magashule to step aside to make things easier for the organisation.

The document also puts to rest the legal debate around whether the party has the constitutional authority to suspend any of its members.

It says that the secretary-general, or the deputy, of the ANC may “summarily suspend the membership” of a member who is facing disciplinary action by the party over misconduct.

This is the process that should follow should the member refuse to voluntarily step aside.

“The ANC has committed itself to fight against corruption in society and within its ranks, particularly among its members, leaders and public representatives,” the document reads.

“It has done so in order to defend the unity and integrity of the organisation and to ensure that the ANC becomes an even more effective instrument of liberation in the hands of the people. Accordingly, this fight must be won. These guidelines and procedures form part of the ANC’s arsenal required to win this important fight.”