The Citizen (Gauteng)
ANC battle is making history
The following are the secretary-generals of the ANC since 1969: Alfred Baphethuxolo Nzo (1969-1991), Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa (19911997), Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe (1997-2007), Gwede Mantashe (2007-2017), Ace Magashule (2017- ). Nzo became minister of home affairs from 1994 till 1999, Ramaphosa and Motlanthe rose to the highest office of president of South Africa and Mantashe is the current minister of minerals and energy.
They all served their full terms and were never booted out of office or suspended. But Magashule was at the weekend unceremoniously booted out of an ANC national executive committee meeting.
It is rare to witness history in the making. Most epoch-defining events are acknowledged after they happened because their importance is never noticed at the time of their occurrence. In the history of the party that has ruled SA since the advent of democracy, the act of excluding its own secretary-general from a meeting of its NEC is a defining moment for the whole country.
And it matters a whole lot that he was booted out of that meeting because he is facing charges of corruption for a scandal that occurred when he was still premier of the Free State. The ruling party, for the first time since it rose to power 27 years ago, is saying to one of its most powerful office bearers: “We think what you are accused of doing is so wrong that we would like you not to serve in our organisation until you’re cleared of the charges are facing.”
That has never happened before in SA’s democratic dispensation. The tendency has always been to wait until someone is proven guilty before booting them out.
Many political commentators view the battle within the ruling party as one simply between two opposing factions. The truth is, it is a battle between right and wrong.
The faction that Magashule is spearheading, radical economic transformation (RET), is seen as the one that looted the country blind in the past decade. The other faction, led by Ramaphosa, is seen as the one trying to root out corruption in the party. The only defence the RET faction has put up thus far is that “Magashule is being targeted because the other faction can use organs of state and, also, they’re guilty of corruption because we have evidence that the president’s CR17 campaign was corrupt”.
Magashule’s faction is saying he should not be booted out because the other side might be equally guilty of corruption. It is not advocating that Magashule is innocent, but that Ramaphosa’s faction might be just as guilty as Ace’s.
Let that sink in.
Magashule’s faction is saying: “He might be guilty of the corruption charges that he faces, but we want him to stay in office because the other side is also tainted.” To that faction, two wrongs make a right.
Magashule does not hold a government position but is the most senior administrator in the party besides the president. If his only defence is that he must be allowed to stay because the president’s faction might be equally guilty, then he is on the wrong side of the moral equation.
The ANC turned a crucial corner at the weekend and for the sake of South Africa as a whole, it needs to stay on the trajectory it is on.