Ace Magashule, the secretary-general of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, faces suspension from the party’s ranks after he ignored an ultimatum from its top leadership to vacate his post while he stands trial on graft charges.
The ANC has been struggling to salvage its reputation in the wake of Jacob Zuma’s nine-year rule, which saw billions of rand looted from state coffers. The party forced Zuma to quit in 2018 and replaced him with President Cyril Ramaphosa, but his authority and efforts to tackle corruption have been undermined by Magashule — a Zuma ally.
In November, Magashule was charged with corruption, fraud and money-laundering relating to an audit contract issued when he was premier of the central Free State province. While he proclaimed his innocence, the ANC’s National Executive Committee on March 29 instructed him to step down within 30 days. His trial is due to resume in the High Court on August 11.
The ANC has yet to specify when Magashule is likely to be suspended, but his fate is likely to be discussed at an NEC meeting next month. The party is due to contest municipal elections on October 27 and is seeking to regain control of several towns it lost to opposition coalitions five years ago.
Magashule didn’t answer a call to his mobile-phone on Friday or respond to a request for comment sent by text message. ANC spokesman Pule Mabe didn’t respond to a request for comment sent by text message.
Several other Zuma allies who are facing criminal charges have also sought to force the party’s hand by defying a resolution to step aside from ANC and government posts while they try to clear their names. They include Zandile Gumede, the ANC’s former chairperson in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, and Bongani Bongo, a ex-state security minister.
On April 28, Supra Mahumapelo, a former premier of the North West province who was also aligned to Zuma, was suspended from the ANC for five years for sowing division in the party’s ranks. He’s likely to appeal the sanction, which was handed down by a local interim structure and not the party’s official disciplinary committee.