Ace Magashule’s arrest could unleash fresh Zuma-era factional battles in ANC
The arrest warrant relates to the R255m asbestos audit contract in the Free State
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule is set to hand himself over and appear in court on charges of fraud and corruption on Friday.
Magashule’s arrest is set to deepen divisions in the ANC, as he moves to position himself as a victim of a political conspiracy. It is the highest-profile arrest of a senior official since Jacob Zuma, who went on to win the presidency and oversee an administration marred by accusations of corruption and state capture that are the subject of a commission of inquiry.
The party’s handling of the fallout will speak volumes about its commitment to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s reform and anti-corruption agenda, which was endorsed by the ANC’s national executive committee.
Prior to that meeting in August, Zuma wrote a scathing letter attacking Ramaphosa, but any talk of a challenge to the president fizzled out.
But the national executive committee’s call on its leaders facing charges to "step aside" had all but fallen flat ahead of Magashule’s arrest and he and his supporters are likely to push back against any attempt to have him step aside from his post in the party.
Magashule will appear on charges linked to a R255m asbestos contract signed during his tenure as Free State premier, which was detailed in journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book on corruption in the province, Gangster State.
The National Prosecuting Authority on Tuesday confirmed that other accused are set to appear in court in connection with the contract on Friday, though it did not name Magashule. Businessperson and ANC benefactor Edwin Sodi and others have already appeared in court over the asbestos contract.
On November 10 2020, the Hawks issued a warrant of arrest for ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. In October, seven others were arrested relating to the same multimillion-rand asbestos removal tender Magashule is being investigated for. Here's what you need to know about the Hawks' arrests and warrant for Magashule.
Magashule, who moved onto the national political stage when he was elected to the ANC’s top six in 2019, is seen as aligned to the so-called radical economic transformation faction in the ANC and Zuma.
Free State Hawks spokesperson Capt Lynda Steyn confirmed on Tuesday that a warrant for Magashule’s arrest had been signed by the national director of public prosecutions.
Magashule has been spared the "Hollywood-style arrest" he complained about last month and has reportedly been given an opportunity to present himself to authorities.
While allegations against Magashule have been public for years, a criminal justice system weakened by years of political meddling and capture has meant that he has been shielded from answering to those allegations.
Senior leaders who spoke on condition of anonymity said Magashule was unlikely to step aside voluntarily and it was possible that there would not be a push for him to do so yet.
The strength of the state’s case will be critical in managing the political fallout, sources said. A weak case would provide Magashule and his group with ammunition for their argument of a politically motivated case.
In the past, the ANC has reacted defensively to one of its senior leaders facing corruption charges. Its government disbanded the Scorpions in the wake of corruption allegations against Zuma.
The ANC said it had heard through media reports of the warrant of arrest issued against Magashule and the secretary-general had advised the party on Tuesday afternoon that he would be consulting his legal team on the way forward and guidance on how to respond.
"The secretary-general previously spoke about his imminent arrest and had requested his legal team to establish the validity of such an arrest with the relevant authorities," spokesperson Pule Mabe said.
"The secretary-general stated on more than one occasion, including through his legal team, that he would co-operate with any process undertaken by law enforcement agencies."
Mabe said the ANC would be monitoring developments closely and would communicate on any update if the need arises.
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