Will it be fireworks or a stalemate at the ANC’s NEC meeting?

The much-anticipated meeting of the highest structure in between conferences finally sits down on Friday.

FILE: ANC leadership at the party's special NEC meeting on 29 September 2019 in Pretoria. Picture: @MYANC/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - As all eyes turn to the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) this week, some will expect fireworks when the much-anticipated meeting of the party's highest structure in between conferences finally sits down on Friday.

However, signs are that the party is stuck in finger pointing and the legalese over their 2017 resolution that those facing serious charges must step aside. At the time, the resolution was about the party taking a moral stand against the scourge of corruption ravaging the country.

Some quarters have been calling for decisive action to be taken against the ANC’s secretary general, Ace Magashule, who is currently facing charges relating to 21 counts of corruption, money laundering and fraud.

Two week ago, in an attempt to show force and defiance, Magashule told crowds gathered outside the Mangaung magistrates court that only ANC branches could remove him from office.

READ: Corruption-accused Ace Magashule: I won’t step down as ANC secretary general yet

Factions in the ANC have been hard at work calculating the odds of how this week’s NEC meeting will play out, with one seeking to find leverage to push Magashule out of the secretary general’s office, while another has been attempting to find ways to block the bid by looking at who else in the room is implicated in corruption claims or any wrongdoing.

“They know they can’t touch the SG. If they do, we will simply ask them what about Zizi [Kodwa], and Pinky [Kekana]. There are many of them who also have clouds above their heads,” one NEC member close to Magashule told Eyewitness News.

Both Kodwa and Kekana’s names came up at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, with businessperson Edwin Sodi - who is facing corruption charges relating to the Free State asbestos project - telling the commission that numerous politicians and officials received money from his company, which made its money from government tenders.

Kodwa, who was the ANC’s national spokesperson at the time, was further implicated during this week’s testimony by Steven Powell from forensic company ENSAfrica, which was appointed to investigate corruption, bribery and fraudulent activities at IT giant EOH in 2018.

Powell told the commission that during his investigations, through analysing the bank statements of EOH director Jehan Mackay, that Mackay made several payments to Kodwa. He said there was nothing wrong or illegal about the transactions.

READ: ANC's Zizi Kodwa, Zuma advisor received payments from EOH, Zondo Inquiry told

The former spokesperson is now the Deputy State Security Minister. Kodwa confirmed to Eyewitness News to having received the donations but said it was not from EOH but from the private accounts of someone linked to EOH.

COMPARING APPLES WITH APPLES

“You cannot compare Zizi to the SG,” another executive committee told Eyewitness News.

The senior politician argued the two not only differed in importance and influence in the party, but Kodwa was not in government at the time, while Magashule was premier of the Free State.

“You simply cannot equate him to Zizi or just anyone, they are not equal in responsibilities. The man [Magashule] is the CEO of the organisation, and in that regard occupies an office that needs to always be seen to have integrity and credibility,” said the second insider.

Shortly after Magashule’s arrest, the ANC’s national officials held a briefing pledging support for the secretary general and calling for just and fair treatment.

When Magashule appeared in Mangaung, several leaders who actively campaigned against a Cyril Ramaphosa presidency were by his side, including Malusi Gigaba, Tony Yengeni, Bongani Bongo and Supra Mahumapelo.

The NEC member supporting the secretary general said he was working hard to mobilise across parts of the country and could rely on a “coalition of the wounded” in the party to stand by his side.

“There is a definite realignment happening. If they think they can easily get rid of the SG, they must think again,” said the source.

COALITION OF THE WOUNDED

The so-called coalition of the wounded is said to have been further bolstered by recent legal opinion acquired by the ANC from advocate Gcina Malindi, who said the party could not force any of its members to step aside from their positions within it as that should be left to the members to determine on their own.

In August, NEC members agreed that those facing corruption or any serious charges should step aside, while those implicated in such should appear before the party’s integrity commission. Both Magashule and party Ramaphosa agreed to appear before the committee, which is made up of elders in the ANC.

The confusion over the decision for members to step aside has been a headache for the party, with KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga battling to make sense of how to navigate the matter.

In KwaZulu-Natal, attempts to get controversial former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede - who is now a member of the provincial legislature - to step aside have failed, while in Mpumalanga the provincial executive committee angered the public when it reversed a decision to suspend one of its PEC members and former MEC, who is charged with raping his daughters. The party has since rescinded the reversal of the suspension following internal and external pressure.

In Gauteng, two PEC members, Khusela Diko and Dr Bandile Masuku, have been forced to step aside over claims that they played a role in the awarding of a multi-million rand tender to Diko’s husband from the Gauteng Health Department, which was then led by Masuku.

The Dikos and Masukus are friends.

Another NEC member said the public shouldn’t necessarily expect a massive showdown as the different factions all had leaders under scrutiny.

“I may be wrong, but these people all have issues, coupled with a conflict-averse leader. One doubts anything will come out of it. I think we are just stuck at the moment,” observed the ANC member.

With no majority dominant faction in the NEC, the party’s highest decision-making body could face a stalemate on the way forward - despite the public looking to the party to show it can act against corruption. The stalemate is likely to weaken the public’s perception of Ramaphosa, who ascended to his presidency promising to act tough against graft.

The NEC is expected to take place over the weekend.

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