ANC top 6 backs Ramaphosa's call for Magashule to immediately step aside: report

The 'Business Day' is reporting this was the response of the other five officials when Magashule informed them on Sunday night that he would not voluntarily vacate office, despite a national executive committee ruling that those facing criminal charges must step aside or face suspension.

African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Ace Magushule addresses protesting Wits University students at Luthuli House in Johannesburg on 11 March 2021. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey-Makhaza/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has reportedly won the "unequivocal" backing of the rest of the African National Congress (ANC) top six for secretary-general Ace Magashule to "immediately" step aside pending the outcome of his fraud and corruption case.

The Business Day on Monday reported that this was the response of the other five officials when Magashule informed them on Sunday night that he would not voluntarily vacate office, despite a national executive committee ruling that those facing criminal charges must step aside or face suspension.

It’s understood that the meeting adjourned at 10 pm and then resumed on Monday.

Magashule is facing criminal charges for alleged involvement in fraud and corruption related to a R255 million asbestos project in the Free State when he was premier. He denies the charges.

His fate tests the ANC's vow to cleanse itself of an image of corruption, revive confidence in South Africa's governance and restore party support at the ballot box.

This strategy, say analysts, may succeed or founder with Magashule, 61 - a tough-as-old-boots political infighter with a permanent scowl and an equally entrenched following.

"For the first time, the ANC is about to fire its own secretary-general. That has never happened in history," said political sciences professor Mcebisi Ndletyana.

The Magashule affair touches on the history and heart of the ANC.

The party was the force that brought South Africa's apartheid system to an end and has governed the country ever since its first democratic elections in 1994.

Within this enclosed hierarchy, Magashule worked his way up through the ranks, starting in his home province of the central Free State and building a support network along the way.

Additional reporting by AFP.

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