Ace Magashule, a top official in South Africa’s ruling party and one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s biggest political detractors, is resisting calls to step down after being charged with graft, alleging he’s unfairly being singled out.
The future of Magashule, the African National Congress’s secretary-general, may feature on the agenda of a meeting of the party’s leadership next month. The party’s national conference, its top decision-making structure, decided in 2017 that all officials who’ve been prosecuted should voluntarily vacate their posts, and the party’s ethics committee recommended that Magashule abide by the directive.
“I don’t know why people are so selective about the conference resolutions because it is not about Magashule,” he said in an interview on January 15. Other top officials, including Ramaphosa, were also implicated in wrongdoing, yet no action had been taken against them, he said.
Ramaphosa has struggled to assert his authority over the ANC since winning its presidency by a narrow margin in late 2017. Magashule, who was charged on November 13 with corruption, fraud and money-laundering, has continually undermined Ramaphosa’s authority and his sidelining could tilt the balance of power in the party in the president’s favour.
A decision to suspend any official would have to be compliant with the country’s laws and not just those of the party, said Magashule, who’s due to make a second court appearance next month. He’s previously denied any wrongdoing and indicated he won’t step aside unless he’s convicted.
South Africa’s anti-graft ombudsman said in a 2019 report that Ramaphosa deceived parliament about a campaign donation, a finding that was overturned by the High Court. The president said in an interview with Johannesburg-based website News24 last week that he wouldn’t hesitate to step down should he be charged with corruption.
The ANC’s National Executive Committee was initially due to convene this weekend, but on Wednesday the party said that meeting has been postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date in February. The panel’s members will still hold three days of discussions, but are unlikely to discuss organisational issues.
Magashule said the talks will focus on a more practical approach toward rebooting an economy that’s been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Focus areas will include support for entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas, he said.
“We want to come with practical things which benefit our people. We don’t want to theorise and have plans and dreams,” he said. “Government will have to ensure that the commitments it makes are not just lip service.”