Months after taking a step towards holding its members accountable when they are accused of wrongdoing, the ANC on Wednesday did an about-face on this stance.
“Those accused of corruption and other serious crimes against them ought to step aside from their responsibilities,” the national executive council (NEC) resolved in August.
But after ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule was served with a warrant of arrest by the Hawks, the party’s top six officials seemed to backtrack on the stance that members charged for serious wrongdoing ought to step aside until such criminal proceedings are resolved.
Initially, some implicated members such as ANC KwaZulu-Natal deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu and ANC MP Bongani Bongo stepped aside from their roles after being accused of criminality, but both have now returned to their duties as the party’s resolution seems to have fallen flat.
When asked by a journalist whether Magashule, as the chief administrative officer of the ANC, would be leading by example and stepping aside as per the party’s 2015 resolution, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said no such thing would be happening since the party was reviewing this position.
“On the issue of the NEC decision on stepping aside … the NEC has reviewed that decision and has taken a view that we need to take serious legal counsel based on the fact that some comrades were initially charged and then had to vacate their positions. Court actions were then withdrawn from them after they had already been asked to vacate senior positions within the movement,” she said.
Duarte said the party was “seized with this matter and the next NEC will discuss it when it sits”.
ANC treasure-general Paul Mashatile echoed this sentiment during the media briefing, saying: “No, we did not discuss him [Magashule] stepping down. The issue of stepping down is a matter the NEC is still seized with. The secretary-general discussed the contents of the letter [warrant of arrest] that he had received and said he would go to court on Friday.”
This appears to be a direct slap to the face of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who in August penned a seven-page letter to members of a disgraced ANC that had found itself in numerous allegations of fraud and corruption during the lockdown, promising a turning point.
The matter seemed to have been made worse with Ekurhuleni chairperson Mzwandile Masina, Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus and other leaders branding Magashule’s looming day in court as being politically motivated.
Mashatile, although indicating that Magashule’s aforementioned allies are “free” to go and support him, qualified that they need to remember that they can only do so in their own capacity, and not purport to be doing so in the name of the ANC.
Duarte, however, made it clear that she and Mashatile would not be attending the proceedings at the Bloemfontein High Court on Friday.
“We have decided not to go, comrade Paul and myself, because we cannot divorce from our positions as officials or from the ANC. We need to respect the NEC’s resolution that people ought to go as individuals,” she said.
This stance does not mean that they are forsaking Magashule: “I think that the sectary-general understands very well that the role of officials is to unite the entire ANC.”
“It is really unfortunate that as of early hours this morning it became quite clear that there we huge tensions brewing in the Free State and in other parts of the country, and we cannot be party to creating any further divisions in the ANC,” she said.
She reiterated that as officials they remained committed to ensuring that “Magashule receives a fair, unbiased” handling of his matter by the courts.
Magashule is facing a string of graft allegations related to a controversial multimillion-rand asbestos contract in the Free State during his time as premier.