Magashule had been the ANC’s chairman in the Free State since 1992 and provincial premier since 2009. Part of the reason he was nominated for a national position was to free his grip on the province, which he ran like a fiefdom.

Under Magashule’s stewardship, the Free State provincial executive committee was disqualified from voting in the ANC’s 2012 and 2017 national conferences, and riven by factional battles. How anyone thought he would be the best candidate to run the ANC’s entire administration, oversee the functioning of structures across the country, mediate disputes and supervise the elections machinery, beggars belief.

What did the ANC think would happen when it elected one of the principal enablers of state capture to run the organisation? The organisation is now in a tangle to explain what its secretary-general, Ace Magashule, was doing with former president Jacob Zuma and former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo at a clandestine meeting in Durban last week. Did the ANC really believe that, after being a facilitator of the Gupta looting spree, Magashule would suddenly change sides in the glow of the New Dawn and abandon Zuma and the Guptas? Magashule himself proclaimed in Pietermaritzburg in January that “the ANC that we know” would return after five years – meaning that the organisation in its current form was alien.  Magashule’s election as secretary-general was undeniably the most disastrous outcome for the ANC out of its 54th national conference in December. It was however symptomatic of the bizarre voting pattern of delegates. Despite there being two distinct factions in the build-up to t...

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