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ANALYSIS | Have Ace Magashule and the RET brigade played their last hand?

On Friday, the Johannesburg high court ruled that Ace Magashule’s suspension was lawful and constitutional

09 July 2021 - 14:10 By mawande amashabalala
Ace Magashule’s defeat comes just days after the face of the RET faction, former president Jacob Zuma, was jailed.
CHEERS! Ace Magashule’s defeat comes just days after the face of the RET faction, former president Jacob Zuma, was jailed.
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

The Radical Economic Transformation (RET) grouping, an ANC faction opposed to party boss President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership, suffered another blow on Friday when the high court dismissed Ace Magashule’s bid to reverse his suspension.

A full bench of the Johannesburg court unanimously sent packing Magashule and his argument that his suspension as secretary-general was unconstitutional and unlawful.

Magashule’s defeat came barely 48 hours after the face of the RET brigade, Jacob Zuma, started his 15-month jail sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal.

The former president’s incarceration was followed by the arrest of the group’s mouthpiece, Carl Niehaus, for contravening Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

Niehaus was also suspended from the party on Tuesday pending a disciplinary hearing.

Friday’s court decision will come as a relief for Ramaphosa, whose agenda it is to renew the ANC and rid it of rogue elements who have corruption hanging over their heads.

Worse for Magashule, after the court affirmed his suspension as legal and consistent with the constitution, is that the ANC is likely to nail him for contravening conditions that were attached to the suspension.

One was for him to cease addressing party members and supporters.

Magashule has defied this more than once, with his latest contravention being his address to crowds in Nkandla on Sunday, when he called for anarchy and parallel structures within ANC ranks.

This is expected to add salt to Magashule’s wounds, as the ANC leadership is said to be contemplating whether to charge him for his Nkandla antics and incitement for an internal revolt.  

The party will be emboldened by the court dismissing Magashule’s argument that he had a right to participate in political activities.

The court said he voluntarily joined the ANC and was therefore subject to its internal rules.

“On this score,” said judge Jody Kollapen, “the ANC is clearly entitled to manage its membership to ensure it admits only those who subscribe to what it stands for.”

Kollapen said among the principles the party stood for, at least since December 2017, was rooting out corruption within its ranks.

“The 54th national conference of the ANC, held at Nasrec in 2017, dealt with the matter of the ANC’s credibility and integrity, and it appears it was a matter that weighed heavily on the delegates,” said Kollapen.

“Deep concerns were raised about the impact of corruption on the affairs of the ANC, its role and sustainability as a political party, and the moral high-ground it sought to hold.

“Arising from this there was a general consensus that it was time for decisive action to eradicate the scourge of corruption and that conference passed four resolutions in essence that dealt with the ANC’s attempt to deal with corruption.”

Kollapen said the resolutions were left to the ANC national executive committee (NEC) to narrow down and develop guidelines to implement the resolutions.

To that end, he said, the ANC NEC resolved at the end of March that leaders who were charged with corruption, of which Magashule was one, must step aside within 30 days or face suspension.

The court dismissed all grounds Magashule advanced to insist his suspension was unlawful.

He argued before the court that rule 25.70 of the ANC constitution, which was invoked to suspend him, was unconstitutional and in conflict with the principles of natural justice.

The court differed, saying his contention was “without foundation”.

Kollapen said: “It cannot be said that rule 25.70 is unconstitutional as it is certainly open to be interpreted to include and incorporate the principles of natural justice and the challenge to the constitutionality of rule 25.70 must accordingly fail.”

The court slammed Magashule for saying ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte had “no authority” to suspend him.

The reality, the court held, was that Magashule was conflicted and thus could not suspend himself, adding that his contention that he was not heard before being shown the door was not supported by facts.

“It is clear Mr Magashule was afforded a hearing before he was suspended. He participated in all the processes related to the development of the resolutions of the national conference regarding this matter.

“In particular, he had the foremost opportunity and did in fact state his case when he appeared before the integrity commission and in other meetings of the NEC and other meetings of the leadership of the ANC.”

The court concluded that the ANC constitution and step-aside rule was consistent with the constitution of the country and the “suspension of Mr Magashule complied with the law”.