S.Africa’s ANC sours over bid to oust members for graft: reports
Talks within South Africa’s ruling party spiralled into chaos over moves to oust members facing graft or other criminal charges, media reports said Monday, threatening to inflame divisions dogging President Cyril Ramaphosa.
At a weekend meeting, politicians loyal to the African National Congress’ graft-accused secretary general, Ace Magashule, objected to a seven-day deadline for him to resign, the reports said.
The monthly meeting of the party’s decision-making body was inconclusive, and so acrimonious that Ramaphosa did not deliver his usual closing address.
Local media said tensions flared after the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) decided that all party leaders facing corruption or other criminal charges should step down within a week or face suspension.
“Magashule and his backers said that was not going to happen,” Amanda Gouws, a political scientist at Stellenbosch University, told AFP on Monday.
“The meeting descended into chaos without any decision.”
Magashule, 61, has been implicated in a 2014 corruption scandal involving contracts to audit asbestos-roofed houses awarded when he was premier of the central Free State province.
He was briefly arrested in November and is facing trial for allegedly failing to report corrupt dealings around the multi-million-dollar contracts.
A slew of other senior government officials have been charged over the scandal.
All are next expected to appear before a high court in August.
Magashule is a close ally of former president Jacob Zuma and part of an internal ANC faction opposed to Ramaphosa.
Gouws noted that pressure on Magashule to step down would likely prompt his supporters to resign.
This would force the ANC to hold an early elective conference — a high-risk scenario for Ramaphosa that could work in his favour or against, she said.
Zuma was forced out in 2018 over graft scandals centred around an Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts.
Ramaphosa has since vowed to root out corruption.
Several Zuma loyalists have come under fire as a result, stoking divisions that have increasingly hampered Ramaphosa’s stewardship of the historic party of Nelson Mandela.
“This confirms the ANC is seriously divided,” Gouws said. “This is a party that cannot govern itself, let alone govern the country.”
ANC spokesman Pule Mabe on Monday denied the NEC meeting had ended in disarray, claiming participants had simply run out of time to wrap up discussions.
“We agreed that the most feasible thing to do would be to meet later this afternoon to conclude on outstanding business,” he told state broadcaster SABC.
Magashule’s ousting had already been recommended by the ANC’s integrity commission in December.
If the NEC follows through, resisting pressure from the Zuma faction, the decision will still have to be ratified before come into force.