Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s bid to challenge the party’s controversial step-aside resolution continued in the Johannesburg high court on Friday morning, with Magashule’s legal team disputing the ANC’s version that he had no authority to suspend party president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Advocate Mahlape Sello, acting on behalf of Magashule, told the full bench of the high court the embattled secretary-general was duly authorised to suspend Ramaphosa by the ANC’s constitution “and the delegated power to suspend”.
Magashule wants the court to confirm his failed attempt to suspend Ramaphosa as ANC leader.
Sello argued that the contention by the party’s national executive committee (NEC) that Magashule’s suspension letter was invalid because he had no authority or mandate to suspend Ramaphosa, was legally flawed.
“The NEC in taking a contradictory position on this matter and as to the validity of the action of the secretary-general’s action was wrong both in fact and in law,” she said.
This was the extended virtual NEC meeting from 8 to 10 May 2021 which removed Magashule from its proceedings following his suspension. This was after he refused to voluntarily step aside pending the conclusion of his corruption trial in the Free State.
Sello argued this reflected the views of the NEC meeting and not the ANC’s constitution.
She also said Magashule was not afforded the opportunity to argue his case why he believed his Ramaphosa suspension letter was valid.
Sello said Ramaphosa should have been excluded from the meeting, given that the matter involved him.
“In taking that decision, the beneficiary [Ramaphosa] of that deliberation participated in that entire process, including participating in issuing a sanction against the secretary-general. That sanction was even publicly announced by the first respondent [Ramaphosa],” she said.
The NEC ordered Magashule to withdraw and apologise for his failed attempt to suspend Ramaphosa, but he said he would not do so.
Sequence of events
On 5 May 2021, Magashule received a letter from deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte suspending him after he failed to comply with the party’s instruction that all ANC members facing criminal charges must voluntarily step aside.
On the same day, Magashule sent Ramaphosa a letter suspending him over the sealed financial records relating to Ramaphosa’s 2017 campaign for the ANC presidency, popularly known as CR17.
Ramaphosa in his affidavit before the high court said the letter was dated 3 May 2021, with Magashule claiming he was acting on the instruction of the party’s national working committee (NWC) that met on the same day.
The ANC president told the court Magashule’s version of events of the NWC meeting was “completely false” as he was also part of the gathering. Ramaphosa said he believed Magashule was therefore acting out of “vengeful spite”.
He said the NWC’s decision on the implementation of rule 25.70 of the ANC’s constitution was in relation to ANC members charged in the courts and not the 2017 resolution that included members facing serious criminal charges.
On Thursday, Magashule’s legal team led by advocate Dali Mpofu spent the day arguing that rule 25.70 was inconsistent with the country’s Constitution and violated their client’s rights to participate in political activities.
They also challenged Duarte’s authority to issue the suspension letter to Magashule as well as asked for a cost order to be imposed on the respondents for missing court deadlines.
The ANC’s legal representatives led by advocate Wim Trengove is making arguments on its opposition to Magashule’s application.
The case continues.