Magashule & Co: The Ace That May Cloud The ANC’s “New Dawn

By Musa Mdunge

The rise of President Cyril Ramaphosa to the ANC presidency and then subsequently to the presidency of South Africa was supposed to mark a “new chapter” in the South African political story. However, the gravity of the corruption and levels of interference by private interests has made Ramaphosa’s task of fostering renewal in not only the ANC but the country an even more difficult one, as he must still entertain the scandals of his predecessor and ANC that was made in the image of Zuma.

Among these scandals are issues such as the SASSA scandal, Nkandlagate, Gupta-Zuma relationships led to the looting of Eskom and other SOEs. Moreover, various ministers have been found wanting in the highest courts of the land. In a discussion with Former Minister in the Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad we touched on the  ANC list controversy, the Ace Magashule debacle and Zuma's seclusion from ANC events. According to Pahad;

The ANC List

“There are two elements here with respect to the ANC list. The ANC demands both through the "Eye of the Needle" and other documentation, a form of ethical leadership, that is short of one finding themselves guilty in a court of law. 

That is why we say the people on the list whether it is Zwane, Nomvula, Malusi or Bathabile by virtue of their actions have brought the ANC into disrepute. The likes of Malusi and Bathabile have by their actions been found to have lied under of oath, one by the constitutional court and the other, the Supreme court of Appeal.” 

His argues that by virtue of the indictments upon them, the ethical and moral argument is a good enough reason for these leaders to step aside and allow themselves the opportunity to clear their names. Now as wonderful as this would be, the ANC of old and the new ANC that emerged out of the Polokwane conference are two different ones and I fail to see how any of Pahad’s, or the veteran’s league’s wishes will be met. He continues to state that the second element involves the NEC’s decision to submit its entire list to the integrity committee, depositing that 

“[it] is a good thing. However, now it (the integrity committee) will have to sit and work out whether or not these individuals should stand, and it can make a recommendation for them to step down, which I hope will. So yes, they should, not because they have been found guilty, I don’t agree with people who say the rule of law is nonsense. The presumption of innocence is central to the rule of law and you cannot pick and choose when the rule of law is applied. The rule of law must be protected but at the same time, these are ANC leaders who must step aside in the interest of the party. Once they have cleared their names, they can come back.”

Former President Jacob Zuma & President Cyril Ramaphosa

Ace Magashule: ANC’s controversial mouthpiece

The debacle around the ANC’s list process brings me to the man who is not only at the helm of this process but also the mouthpiece of the party, Ace Magashule. Magashule 's closeness, with Zuma and the Guptas, has earned him the reputation as a ruthless political operator, who ran the Free State like his own mini-kingdom. He is alleged to have used state resources to give tenders to friends and allies, while also using state resources to grease the palms of branch and regional leaders, in order to maintain his dominance and by virtue Zuma’s own political dominance over the ANC membership. When asked about Magashule’s controversial election to the position of Secretary-General and the book by Pieter-Louis Myburgh-Gangster State, Pahad had this to say; 

“I see the papers have reported about the controversy of Ace’s election as SG, what surprised me was that the top 6 were elected on one list unlike before where the election of each position was done, individually. The author of the book must appear before the Zondo commission and give evidence to back up the claims he made. Secondly, he should give all evidence of wrongdoing to law enforcement agencies and they in turn must investigate the validity of the evidence. It is one thing to write a book and be open to being interrogated on what you have written. It would compel Ace to appear at the commission and cross-examine Myburgh and get a chance to clear his name. 

In the book, the author states as a matter of fact that Ace took Thabo Manyoni to Saxonworld, this must be tested in the commission, only then can we come to the truth about the claims made against Ace. It will then be clear as to what took place. It is not enough for Ace to say that these allegations are all fabrications and only seek to discredit him and the ANC. That may well be true, but he must still clear his name."

However, even if Myburgh goes to the Zondo commission, the question remains what next? The commission may be great for revealing the truth about state capture but if it does not lead to the prosecution of those accused of stealing state money or lead to any attempts to recuperate  this money, the commission for all its good, would be in vain, a view shared by Pahad who calls for 

“the NPA must start [the process of] pressing charges as soon as it is possible for them. In the long run, allegations must be tested in a court of law. As far as the ANC is concerned, Ace must explain to the top 6 what happened. The charges are serious and will impact the ANC.”

When Zuma is MIA

One person who has becoming MIA of late is Zuma or is he just maneuvering underground, waiting to see how the elections will pan out. Zuma, unlike Mbeki, has been keen to involve himself in ANC business, including attending NEC meetings in his capacity as an ex officio member of the NEC. Given his involvement, media reports of his exclusion from ANC events raises questions about the power dynamics in the party. According to Pahad, we must be careful about what is reported in the media as arguing that according to what he read Zuma has denied the allegations of being excluded. However, he raised concerns about Zuma’s recent utterances.  

“What I thought was funny is that he called on the people to vote for the BLF publicly. I do not know why but I suspect it is because they are supporting his views on radical economic transformation So, we must see if it will have any impact on the BLF's performance at the polls.”

ANC Factionalism

Lastly, we discussed what the impact of ANC infighting will have on Ramaphosa’s ability to govern effectively. There is no doubt he needs a good show at the polls, or he will be politically weakened in the manner Theresa May of the UK finds herself. Pahad states that

 “it is important that Cyril lead the ANC  to a decisive election, that would strengthen his hand to be able to deal with some of the rotten apples in the ANC. Secondly, if he becomes president following a decisive election victory, he can make the necessary steps to reduce the cabinet size, which was increased to 70 or odd number by Zuma. He would able to start the process of taking the necessary steps to bring about some reforms in the government itself. 

That is why we keep on insisting for people to vote for the ANC, as there is no alternative to the ANC. So let us strengthen the hand of the progressive elements within the ANC! If he doesn’t, I think the bad elements would use the NGC as a platform to call for his removal as president. Let us strengthen his hand, in order to cleanse the ANC and the government. This can only the starting point, to deal with corruption is a long process. Just look at the delays in the Zuma corruption charges.”

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