The top leadership of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will meet next week to discuss the fate of one of its top officials who is facing criminal charges, deliberations that could have a major bearing on the party’s internal power dynamics.
Ace Magashule, the ANC’s secretary-general and one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s main rivals, appeared in court on Nov. 13 to face counts of corruption, fraud and money-laundering relating to an audit contract issued while he was premier of the central Free State province.
Magashule has said he’s innocent and refused to abide by a party resolution that states that all officials facing charges must voluntarily vacate their posts.
Magashule’s case will be discussed by at a meeting of the ANC’s decision-making National Executive Committee that will be convened on Nov. 27 or Nov. 28, Jessie Duarte, the party’s deputy secretary-general, told reporters in Johannesburg on Friday.
The panel will also discuss how to deal with other officials facing charges, including Bongani Bongo, a former state security minister who’s refused to step down as a lawmaker.
“The unfortunate reality is that a number of people are accused so that they can be moved out of the positions they occupy so that someone else can take over,” Duarte said.
“Then there are people who have done wrong, but the rule of law is that you are innocent until proven guilty. We would like the ANC to stay with the political morality perspective,” but the party also has to ensure justice is served, she said.
Magashule, who oversees the day-to-day running of the ANC. He has publicly undermined Ramaphosa and his exit could help the president cement control over the deeply divided party.
Ramaphosa, who took office in February 2018, has championed a clampdown on the embezzlement of state funds that took place during his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s nine-year rule.
Duarte denied that the case against Magashule was stoking tensions within the ANC, and declined to comment on his future. Party officials will in future have to make full disclosure about their financial affairs and flag any conflict of interests, she said.