I’ll only apologise if court says so: Ace Magashule about move against Ramaphosa

‘It is cold comfort that I am suspended with pay’

14 May 2021 - 13:42
Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said 'any apology issued by me before legal clarity is given by this honourable court would not be genuine or meaningful'. File photo.
Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said 'any apology issued by me before legal clarity is given by this honourable court would not be genuine or meaningful'. File photo.
Image: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Suspended ANC secretary-general (SG) Ace Magashule is digging in his heels, saying he will only publicly apologise for attempting to suspend party president Cyril Ramaphosa if instructed to do so by a court of law.

The beleaguered Magashule had until Friday to apologise for issuing an unsanctioned suspension letter against Ramaphosa last week as retaliation for his own suspension.​

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On Friday morning the former premier of the Free State filed court papers in the South Gauteng High Court on an urgent basis, seeking an order to set aside his suspension.

The matter is urgent as it is a subject of rising tensions in the party and must be dealt with to reduce the temptation on anyone to resort to self-help or even violence of any kind.
Ace Magashule, in court papers

In his court papers challenging the lawfulness of his suspension, Magashule argued that as the party’s secretary-general he was exercising his powers and functions when he issued a suspension letter on Ramaphosa.

The ANC national executive committee (NEC), its highest decision-making body in between conferences, moved to confirm Magashule’s suspension last weekend and gave him 48 hours to apologise for his unauthorised letter against Ramaphosa.

Magashule is asking the court to decide on the lawfulness of the demand for an apology, saying he would only accede to it if it is part of a court order.

“I can only genuinely tender such an apology if this honourable court declares that despite what I have explained, it is unwarranted in the circumstances, which I dispute,” Magashule said in the court papers.

“Any apology issued by me before legal clarity is given by this honourable court would not be genuine or meaningful.”

Magashule mounted his court action against the ANC despite previously stating in Soweto earlier this year that “we don’t resolve ANC matters through the courts of law”.

The ANC has previously stated that it frowned upon members challenging its affairs in court, saying those who did so would be automatically expelled. It remains to be seen if this would be invoked against the defiant Magashule.

In his court papers, he further calls into the question the constitutionality of the step-aside rule in terms of which he has been suspended.

Magashule says the step-aside resolution, which was adopted at the ANC’s national conference in 2017, was “fundamentally” altered and amended by the pro-Ramaphosa dominated NEC “beyond recognition” from the original conference resolution.

The alteration and amendment of the original conference resolution, Magashule argued, was done to “purge those who are unwanted” for ideological differences.

Magashule further argued that his political opponents are using the “altered and amended” step-aside rule to remove him from office.

His removal from office, he claimed, would pave the way for Ramaphosa to get a second term as ANC president at the party’s next conference in 2022.

The sanctions that came with Magashule’s suspension included barring him from publicly representing the ANC and speaking on any matter involving the party. He may not mobilise any structure of the ANC or any organisation or person on any ANC matters, especially on the issue of his stepping aside.

“The real motive behind my being purged is the desire to remove me, by hook or by crook, from the all-powerful position of SG so the road to the re-election of president Cyril Ramaphosa and his faction in the next national conference is made easier. I may add that the fears that I would interfere with the democratic processes are a misplaced sign of unnecessary panic,” he said.

Magashule asked the court to deal with his matter on an urgent basis as his disputed suspension has, he asserted, resulted in instability in the country, economy, investor confidence and the party.

He asked the court to hear the matter speedily as his office is tasked with the day-to-day running of the ANC and has to also start preparing for local government elections later in the year.

Magashule argued that the matter is urgent as it is a subject of rising tensions in the party and must be dealt with “to reduce the temptation on anyone to resort to self-help or even violence of any kind”.

His rights, Magashule said, are being violated with each passing day he remains on suspension.

“Not only is my dignity impaired by the daily humiliation I suffer and the impairment to my reputational rights, but also by the unwarranted denial of my right to work and my self-worth as a human being,” he said.

Magashule argued that the fact that he will still be receiving his full salary of around R130,000 a month does not make his suspension any less of a violation.

“Our higher courts, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court, have repeatedly emphasised that the right to work needs to be treated separately from the right to earn a salary. It is therefore cold comfort that I am suspended with pay.”

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