Genevieve Quintal Political editor
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE/GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE/GCIS

ANC leaders and members charged with corruption and wrongdoing, including secretary-general Ace Magashule, have 30 days to voluntarily step aside or be suspended,  President Cyril Ramaphosa announced late on Monday evening.

In a win for the so-called reformists in the party who are aligned to Ramaphosa's anti-corruption agenda, the party's highest decision making body between congresses had  resolved that the “step-aside rule” must be implemented in line with the guidelines and procedures adopted at its last meeting in February.

“All members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days, failing which they should be suspended in terms of rule 25.7 of the ANC constitution,” Ramaphosa said in an address after  a late night session of the national executive committee (NEC). 

“The meeting emphasised that the 30 day period will be used to enable the implementation of the decision in line with the guidelines. This is not a review of the decision.”

This means Magashule, who is facing corruption charges, will have to step aside by the end of April.

Magashule and his supporters put up a fight at the NEC meeting, which started on Friday, after it was first proposed that those charged be given seven days to step aside. The meeting descended into chaos on Sunday evening leading to deadlock on the matter and the adjournment without a decision. The meeting reconvened on Monday night.

It is yet to be seen whether Magashule and others facing charges will adhere to the step-aside rule or whether the secretary-general will put the ANC in a position where it will have to suspend him. Magashule has previously said that only branches of the ANC can remove him at a special conference.

Ramaphosa said the NEC had welcomed a decision by Magashule to use the next month to seek the counsel of former leaders of the ANC.

“The NEC called on all ANC members to rally around this decision and not to engage in any acts of indiscipline, including through mobilisation or public statements that undermine implementation of the conference resolution,” the president said.

Magashule is seen to be aligned to former president Jacob Zuma, and has defended him on numerous occasions, even when he defied a Constitutional Court order that he appear before the state capture commission. During the weekend meeting, former president Thabo Mbeki reportedly criticised the office of the secretary-general under Magashule, saying it was at its weakest.

Zuma has been critical of the Constitutional Court, the judiciary and the Zondo commission, accusing them of being politicised.

Ramaphosa said the ANC distanced itself from attacks on the judiciary that sought to undermine its legacy and impugn its decisions.

“Our constitution provides sufficient safeguards against the abuse of power by any arm of the state, and any person who has evidence of any misdemeanour or abuse should make use of the available remedies,” he said.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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