ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU

The ANC’s integrity commission has recommended that secretary-general Ace Magashule step down pending the outcome of his corruption case in court.

The commission, which is made up of party elders, said in its final report following a meeting with Magashule at the weekend, that the national executive committee (NEC) must implement the party’s resolution that those facing formal corruption charges step aside. If the secretary-general resists that decision, the party must consider suspending him, it said.

However, the integrity commission said Magashule had indicated during the meeting that he would “never resist the decision of the NEC, even if he might not agree with it”.

Magashule, who is facing corruption charges relating to a contract to identify homes with asbestos roofs in the Free State, met the integrity commission on Saturday after voluntarily offering to appear before it.

This comes in the wake of the party’s continued discussions about its decision that those formally charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside pending the outcome of court processes.

If the NEC, the party’s highest decision-making body between conferences, accepts the integrity commission’s recommendation, it will set a precedent, clearing the way to force other members, such as MP Bongani Bongo, former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and KwaZulu-Natal deputy chair Mike Mabuyakhulu, who are also facing charges in court, to do the same.

The ANC went back to square one last week, with its national officials developing a framework for how to deal with those who are formally charged with corruption and other serious crimes, after soliciting legal opinions.

In August, the NEC came out insisting that it was drawing a line in the sand with regard to corruption and that it was agreed that any member of the party facing formal charges must step aside from their position in the party and government.

However, since that meeting the ANC has been vacillating on the issue.

In closing remarks at last week’s NEC meeting, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the party would not dilute its resolutions on dealing with corruption, despite there still being no clear process to be followed.

The ANC has been trying to restore its image after years of allegations of corruption.

In the recent past, allegations against senior party leaders have hurt its electoral support, especially in the 2016 local government elections, where it lost control of three of the country’s metros. The ANC gained some ground again in 2019 riding on Ramaphosa’s anticorruption ticket, but with the 2021 local government elections looming, the party is under pressure to show the electorate it is serious.

The integrity commission report, which is signed by the chair, George Mashamba, said it was concerned about the growing negative perception of the NEC, and that it was increasingly receiving feedback from the public, including ANC members, that the executive committee was not providing decisive leadership and was paralysed in fulfilling its promise of organisational renewal and combating corruption.

“Of concern to the IC [integrity commission] is not the correctness or otherwise of these perceptions. The concern is the negative and damaging impact these perceptions have on the organisation,” it said.

“It is now perceived that the NEC cannot implement its decision against its secretary-general; not as a form of protecting him, but because some of the NEC members are themselves implicated in wrongdoing.”

The commission said it was worried that the party's officials and the NEC were making use of legal opinions to try to avoid implementing resolutions that were “essentially ethical and political”, and which it had continuously promised SA it would implement.

Update: December 15 2020
This article has been updated with comment and information throughout.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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