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‘No one will be left’ – ANC NEC battles with ‘step aside’ resolution

In his final political overview for the year, Ramaphosa tackled a series of issues including COVID-19, the country’s economic recovery plan, efforts to strengthen governance, tackling corruption and the renewal of the ANC.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - African National Congress (ANC) president Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday said the five legal opinions sought over whether members implicated in serious crimes should step down was a serious indictment on the party.

In his final political overview for the year, Ramaphosa tackled a series of issues including COVID-19, the country’s economic recovery plan, efforts to strengthen governance, tackling corruption and the renewal of the ANC.

READ MORE: ANC NEC discuss legal advice in dealing with corruption-accused members

The president and his national executive committee (NEC) have been participating in a three-day virtual meeting where issues such as dealing with members facing serious charges are being debated.

This as those implicated in corruption, such as the party’s secretary general Ace Magashule and parliamentary committee chairperson Bongani Bongo, have refused to step down.

ALSO READ: I’m not worried at all, says Magashule ahead of NEC meeting

Five legal opinions on whether these members could be pushed out have been produced and form part of those discussions.

Ramaphosa drew a line in the sand as he delivered his political overview, urging members to not turn a blind eye when their comrades are in the wrong.

Saying if ANC members and leaders want to see a united South Africa, then they need to start respecting the party’s own decisions and political consciousness.

Whilst he lauded some of the ANC’s achievements, including its response to COVID-19, he said there were areas where the ANC had fallen short, which had affected its credibility.

He listed corruption and factionalism as major issues in the governing party.

Ramaphosa’s NEC has the difficult task of trying to navigate through five legal opinions on what should happen to members implicated in serious crimes

HAMSTRUNG ON WAY FORWARD ON CRIMINALLY CHARGED LEADERS

At the same time, the ANC’s NEC appears hamstrung on the way forward over its 2017 resolution for criminally charged leaders to step aside

This as issues from the watershed conference, which resulted in Ramaphosa being elected the ANC’s president.

Numerous sources have told Eyewitness News that while there might have been some tension at the start of the second day of the three-day NEC meeting, robust and mature debates were the order of the day, with one insider even claiming there was “cool temperature” among the comrades as they debated issues of integrity and morality within the party.

The ANC’s highest decision-making body has been struggling to make sense of its own 2017 conference resolution, even after affirming it at an August meeting focused on claims of corruption levelled against party members.

It’s expected that the NEC will call for officials to revisit the issue of formulating guidelines and a framework for the resolution. This as some have accused them of passing the buck by seeking legal opinions over the matter.

“We are here because the officials have not done what they were supposed to do. They need to go back and formulate a framework urgently, this is not just about the NEC but it cuts across all our structures,” said a source from the NEC.

“It really is a form of misconduct from our officials, not doing what they have been tasked to do but outsourcing it,” added the party member.

The first insider rubbished claims that Magashule’s allies had made any headway towards swaying the executive committee in his favour, claiming many in the virtual gathering were not supporting the different legal opinions as they were seen as an out for the secretary general having to take responsibility.

“One of those who spoke today mentioned that they had agreed to these resolutions before they were arrested, suddenly they go to jail and there are issues with the very resolutions they supported.”

Magashule, who is the former premier of the Free State, is facing 21 counts of corruption over an asbestos project during his term in office. He has defiantly stated he would not “step aside,” with his supporters also pleading for him to be seen as innocent before being found guilty in a court of law.

“If the ANC was to ever be serious about corruption, Ramaphosa will be the first casualty,” said a second NEC member, seen as a close ally of Magashule told Eyewitness News.

The leader who disregarded the president’s hard-hitting political overview, said it would not shape Tuesday’s decisions when the meeting wrapped, further accusing the party president of being factional and still having to answer questions over his 2017 conference win.

“Those resolutions say the ANC must deal decisively with corrupt activities, including those who use money to influence outcomes of conferences. Even those sealed documents… if they are so innocent, why is he hiding them? We want to know who benefits from assisting in that campaign,” continued the second party member.

The second source also argued that taking administrative action and calling for Magashule to be suspended would mean a judgement against him, saying this was not consistent with the ANC or the country’s Constitution.

This is a view some of the top legal minds expressed when the former liberation movement asked for advice in this matter.

Further complicating matters, some of Magashule’s allies have questioned what the party would do if a resolution for all those implicated in various scandals but not charged like Magashule, Bongo and former mayor of eThekwini turned member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature Zandile Gumede. Numerous leaders, some aligned to Ramaphosa have been implicated in wrongdoing, with some including ministers and deputy ministers having benefited from companies doing business with the state.

“Step-aside, when you think of it along with the national general council of 2015’s position is far too wide, everyone will be affected and no one will be left,” continued the second insider.

Another cautioned against the ANC pushing ahead with the resolution, warning that it would open the party up for litigation as members would seek to challenge this in the courts and could bring the ANC more embarrassment.

The last source told Eyewitness News that like the faction said to be close to the president had previously argued, it could not touch the reserve bank because there is no money and that pushing for land drastically would threaten food security, they believed the forceful removal of Magashule would bring more division to the ANC and the country.

The NEC is expected to continue with these discussions, as well as review its positions on economic transformation, set out the guidelines for the election of party councillors ahead of the 2021 local government elections and the unity of their organisation.

The NECmeeting will draw to an end on Tuesday.

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