Tension rises over Ace at NEC talks
Joel Netshitenzhe leads lobby to censure Magashule
● ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and his supporters came under fire at the meeting of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) on Friday when top ANC leaders called for him to be disciplined for bringing the party into disrepute.
The Sunday Times has it on good authority from several sources who took part in the weekend meeting, which is due to end today, that ANC heavyweight Joel Netshitenzhe led the charge against Magashule.
The sources quoted Netshitenzhe as telling fellow members of the NEC, the party’s highest decision-making body between national conferences, that Magashule’s comments during an interview with Durbanbased Gagasi FM had undermined the authority of the party’s leadership and further divided the ANC.
In the interview last week Magashule praised those ANC MPs who chose not to take part in a parliamentary vote establishing a special committee to probe public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.
Magashule told the radio station that the MPs “did the right thing” by refusing “to sleep with the enemy” because the report recommending an inquiry into Mkhwebane arose from a DA initiative.
His comments were at odds with the instructions of the other ANC top six officials — including President Cyril Ramaphosa and national chair Gwede Mantashe — who had ordered ANC MPs to vote in favour of an inquiry.
ANC insiders said that during the discussion that followed Ramaphosa’s political report — in which he called for unity — Netshitenzhe fired the first salvo against Magashule, saying the party should act against him because his comments in the Gagasi FM interview “were undermining and trying to split the organisation”.
Netshitenzhe yesterday declined to comment on the matter.
The criticism of Magashule is seen as part of a campaign by ANC leaders sympathetic to Ramaphosa who have lost patience with Magashule and his radical economic transformation (RET) faction, which they believe are undermining his leadership.
Sources indicated that another NEC member, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu, took aim at Carl Niehaus, another prominent member of the RET brigade.
Niehaus, a staunch supporter of former
president Jacob Zuma and who is on the staff of the secretarygeneral’s office, has publicly attacked Ramaphosa’s leadership several times and has criticised those in the party who support him.
Insiders quoted Zulu as asking the meeting: “Is there anyone who can account for Carl’s actions? He gets paid by the ANC every month but he’s undermining ANC leaders, and by extension the ANC, on a daily basis.”
Zulu also declined to comment yesterday. “I’m sure your mole and sellout can confirm to you every discussion in the ANC. You’re knocking on the wrong door right now,” she said.
But staunch Magashule supporter Lindiwe Ntshalintshali, provincial secretary of the ANC in Mpumalanga, is said to have come to his defence.
“She told the NEC that there’s nothing wrong [with his comments], that the SG is the SG of the movement and he can make any comments,” an insider said.
“She asked why must we prescribe to him on what he can say,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because of party rules against disclosing NEC discussions.
Ntshalintshali also told the meeting that NEC members must stop “policing” Magashule’s office, including his employment of Niehaus.
The Sunday Times understands that several ANC provinces, including Gauteng and Mpumalanga, are expected to back Magashule in his refusal to observe the party’s step-aside rule.
According to insiders, the executive committees of the ANC in the two provinces have resolved to oppose the recently adopted guidelines stipulating that those charged with crimes must leave their posts in the party until their names have been cleared.
The Sunday Times understands that the position of the Gauteng and Mpumalanga ANC structures, as argued during the NEC meeting, is that the step-aside guidelines are specifically targeted at Magashule, who is facing multiple charges of corruption and fraud in the Bloemfontein high court.
Insiders said that if the rest of the NEC refuses to accept this argument, representatives of the two provinces plan to demand that the NEC first deal with a 2019 report by the party’s integrity commission that listed at least 23 NEC members it wanted removed from a list of candidates nominated to serve in parliament.
If the NEC insists Magashule should step aside, the Mpumalanga provincial executive will argue that all ANC office-holders named or implicated in the Zondo commission into state capture should also be required to step aside.
“How many were ordered to step down? None except for the SG,” one NEC member sympathetic to Magashule said.
“Was the national chair [Mantashe] not put on the stand about the cameras? He should’ve stepped down,” said the source, referring to testimony at the commission about security cameras installed at Mantashe’s residences.
The source said those lobbying for the step-aside rule were not trying to protect the image of the party but were targeting “certain members”.