Out with the old, in with the new

2018-04-01 06:20
ANC supporters went to Free State Stadium on Thursday to attend an event that served as a farewell party for Ace Magushule and an inauguration celebration for his successor, Sisi Ntombela PHOTO: Rosetta Msimango

ANC supporters went to Free State Stadium on Thursday to attend an event that served as a farewell party for Ace Magushule and an inauguration celebration for his successor, Sisi Ntombela PHOTO: Rosetta Msimango

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Outgoing Free State Premier Ace Magashule sat quietly next to his successor, Sisi Ntombela, scanning the crowd of mainly municipal workers who barely filled the venue for his farewell party on Thursday.

Although a few faint boos could be heard from a small section of the crowd, they were drowned out by the ululations that came from the big stage erected on the pitch where ANC leaders and former president Jacob Zuma’s staunchest supporters led everyone in song and dance.

A slew of dignitaries attended the event, including ambassadors and government officials from countries such as Russia, China and Portugal.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane were also at the event.

When music started to echo throughout the 46 000-capacity stadium, everyone was forced to their feet. But this did little to cheer up Magashule, who seemed reluctant to flash a smile even as speaker after speaker showered him with praises.

Several pastors quoted the Bible and chanted slogans in an attempt to breathe life into Magashule’s uncertain future in politics.

The pastors also sent well wishes to Ntombela, who is about to take over a debt-ridden government. One pastor described Magashule as “an unmatched and irreplaceable leader” who might have been disliked by many but changed a countless number of lives.

Another speaker – who was a beneficiary of the outgoing premier’s goodwill – said Magushule was a deputy Messiah. Others spoke of how he offered them financial assistance when they needed it most.

Service delivery came to a standstill on Wednesday after the premier’s office instructed all public servants to leave work early so they could be at the venue by 10am the following day.

A notice signed by director-general Kopung Ralinkontsane informed staff members that a prayer session arranged for those who would be going home for Easter had been canned “due to the inauguration celebration of the new premier and farewell party for the outgoing premier”.

According to one senior government official in Welkom, they were asked to mobilise 50 000 people to fill up the stadium “to give the impression that Ace still enjoys a huge following”.

Some ANC members complained about the large amount of money spent on the event. Many said there was no need to spend R20m on a farewell party.

Sources told City Press that a lavish gala dinner had to be cancelled because of growing pressure from members of the governing party.

The backlash intensified on the day of the event as opposition parties cried foul over the “fruitless and wasteful expenditure” which took place in a province that could hardly pay for electricity.

Magashule said “people should not worry” as not much was spent on the event.

“A report will be compiled. Ntombela is the premier now. I have nothing to do with [the provincial] government,” he said.

ANC insiders said most people boycotted the event due to the allegations of corruption that characterised Magashule’s tenure.

They said they feared Magashule – who was appointed secretary-general at the ANC’s elective congress in December – would try to run the province from Luthuli House.

Premier Ntombela did not take kindly to the rumours, saying they spoke volumes about the patriarchal mindset that suggested women were incapable of leading.

When it was time for Magashule to address the crowd, he warmed up by singing his favourite struggle songs. With a microphone in hand, his voice boomed through the speakers as he rallied support for Ntombela, a woman who stood by his side throughout his tenure.

He spoke glowingly of his own achievements, slated his critics who “thrived on pulling a black man down” and vowed to “take back stolen land and return it to its “rightful owners”.

“What we have done here was not in my name. All of this was done in the name of the ANC,” he said.

“Don’t ever shun the ANC. They can speak and write [whatever they want].

“We don’t care about them because they have never loved black people.”

“There has never been a time when any of them agreed that blacks should break the chain of white oppression

“They should not mislead you. Newspapers must not lie to you. They keep repeating their lies in the hopes that they will eventually become the truth. We are not worried.”

The proceedings ended with a big bang. The crowd roared with excitement as Magushule released confetti and white doves as a gesture of peace and unity.

Magashule is a divisive figure. Depending on who you speak to, he is a rogue politician who victimised dissidents during his tenure, or a good Samaritan who turned sex workers into varsity graduates and former inmates into entrepreneurs.

On the day of his farewell party, Magashule woke up to more damning revelations regarding his alleged involvement in a housing project scam.

Magushule has been accused of ensuring that a company partly owned by his daughter secured contracts worth R150m from the Free State government.

He has denied the claims.

“I have not influenced any one. My children are everywhere. They are free to do whatever they want because they are adults. I can’t make decisions for them.

“For as long as I was premier, I did not do anything [wrong]. I’m not shaken and will never be. I will remain resolute and focused,” he said on Wednesday.

Magashule said he would also cooperate with any investigation into the claims made against him and told City Press he had no problem with an inquiry into allegations of state capture.

“You would be surprised to find that those who talk the most about it are the ones who were captured.”

Read more on:    ace maga­shule

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