ANC targets Jacob Zuma allies in party clean-up

Thursday May 06 2021
Ace Magashule ANC

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule. PHOTO | AFP


President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption faction in South Africa’s ruling party has begun to politically neutralise the remaining supporters of former president Jacob Zuma.

On Tuesday, the national executive committee of the African National Congress (ANC), a management body representing the party’s highest decision-making forum, said that it is now enforcing a prior decision that party members formally accused of crimes, especially corruption, should either ‘step aside’ or be suspended.

This effectively means that many of Zuma’s closest political allies in the ruling party – especially its most senior administrator, secretary-general Ace Magashule – would be forced out of their posts while criminal proceedings against them are in progress.

Sources close to Magashule and some others named as ‘step aside’ candidates said they were unhappy that the ANC seemed to be abandoning old comrades “to satisfy outside interests”.

But there was also resignation that Zuma’s faction, which initially had majority control within the top echelons of the ANC after Ramaphosa took over party leadership in 2018, had lost control over its organisational structures.

In KwaZulu-Natal province, a Zuma stronghold, the party’s regional deputy chairman recently said he was ‘stepping aside’ amid corruption allegations, a recognition that the party had finally “drawn a line in the sand”, as Ramaphosa recently put it, on dealing with allegations of corruption against senior “politically-exposed persons”. 


Magashule, who initially refused to step aside, now seems to have accepted that he must – or face the humiliation of a suspension and disciplinary hearing. He had hoped for a lifeline from the ANC’s national executive committee in the form of a request that his case be reviewed after six months, but he has not been granted that and is unlikely to be.

He was charged, along with other alleged accomplices, with tender fraud stemming from his time as head of the Free State regional government. The case involves replacement of asbestos fibre roofing and building materials among the poorest – work that was paid for in the millions but never done.

Magashule’s next court date, where he faces many of counts and additional charges, is in August. He claims, through his lawyers, that the charges will be “thrown out of court”, but the party he until very recently ran has turned its back on him – at least until he is cleared of charges.

Magashule urged the ANC’s national working committee, prior to its determination, to follow through with suspensions of members accused of crimes, saying it was unfair to target him when there were others at the party who also had legal problems.

He specifically mentioned South Africa's deputy president and deputy ANC chairperson, David Mabuza, who is facing a $70 million civil lawsuit in which he and others are accused of corruption related to a land scam in Mpumalanga province. 

Magashule also named ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe who has been implicated by the Zondo commission for allegedly receiving illegal upgrades to his home, along with the party’s treasurer general Paul Mashatile, Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo and Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, all potentially on the party’s list to be required to ‘step aside’.

Some of those likely to be suspended have, like Magashule, indicated that they may take the matter to court over the constitutionality of ANC’s decisions – but some legal analysts argue that that the move would stand little chance of success, beyond buying some time.

The clean-up at the ANC has also affected at least one Ramaphosa ally, ANC deputy chair in KwaZulu-Natal, Mike Mabuyakhulu, who said he was ‘stepping aside’ after being charged with corruption in connection with a 2012 jazz festival which never happened despite nearly $2 million being spent on it.

Several high-profile figures in the party, all Zuma supporters, now stand to lose their grip on power and the party’s support as their cases go to court.