ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has tried to defend and even retreat from some of his comments on Wednesday, when he said former president Jacob Zuma should be left alone because he had done nothing wrong after he pledged to defy the courts and the Zondo commission.
Magashule had also said “don’t worry about the Constitution”, when asked about Zuma’s defiance of it.
In an interview with Newzroom Afrika on Thursday, Magashule said: “For now, because we are focusing on president Zuma, let us not focus on any other thing, including the Constitution. Let’s focus on what Zuma has and his rights. There is nothing wrong with what I said.”
He added that: “I can’t speak on behalf of president Zuma. I’m sure he can speak to you guys and that’s why I said give him space, give the ANC space to discuss ANC matters.
“The media needs to stop putting a particular agenda and direct the pace and tempo of what the ANC must say. No one said don’t respect the Constitution of the country. There isn’t such and I make it very clear that people must respect individual rights in a democratic country,” he said.
Magashule also said “wrong things” were happening in the country and promised that, in time, he would reveal what he meant.
Pressed on this, he asked Newzroom Afrika interviewers if they could not see how black business was suffering and being marginalised. He did not want to say who he believed was behind this situation.
He added that Zuma was well within his rights to reject the findings of the Constitutional Court that forced him to appear at the Zondo commission.
But he appeared to add fuel to the fire when he said the Constitution was not sacrosanct, as it could be changed, pointing to the process to amend section 25 that dealt with land and property rights.
Magashule said Zuma, like any other South African, had rights, and that he did not want to discuss the Constitutional Court ruling.
“Let me not give my view on the Constitutional Court because you guys will run a narrative that makes us look like we are not respecting the Constitutional Court when we express certain views, because I don’t want a narrative that is reported that says I do not respect the Constitutional Court. I’ve never said such”.
Zuma has been in a fierce battle with the commission’s chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, and said he was prepared to go to jail rather than testify before the commission.
In a statement released on Monday morning, on the Constitutional Court’s decision compelling him to appear before the Zondo commission of inquiry, Zuma was adamant that he would defy the court order and would not cooperate with the commission.
“I do not fear being arrested, I do not fear being convicted, nor do I fear being incarcerated,” Zuma said.
He added that he had stood firm “against the apartheid government” and was now “prepared to go to prison to defend the constitutional rights that I fought for and to serve whatever sentence this democratically elected government deems appropriate as part of the special and different laws for the Zuma agenda”.
Magashule was tight-lipped about what Zuma’s arrest would mean for the ANC.
The commission approached the Constitutional Court after Zuma walked out of proceedings when his application for Zondo to recuse himself was denied in November last year.
Magashule said the ANC was still in support of the Zondo commission.
Magashule is facing his own troubles. In two weeks, the ANC will debate whether or not he should step aside during the party’s scheduled national executive committee meeting.
He has 21 charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering hanging over him and is set to appear before the Bloemfontein courts this month.