Ace vs ANC: High court set to hear Magashule’s court application today
Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga says Magashule’s court challenge is a strong indication that he is being pushed into a corner.
Former ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. Picture: Gallo Images
Embattled suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s court application seeking to overturn his suspension and challenge the party’s controversial step aside resolution is set to be heard in the Johannesburg High Court this morning.
The unprecedented court battle between Magashule, the party, President Cyril Ramaphosa and acting secretary-general Jessie Duarte, has been set for a full bench hearing on Thursday and Friday at the High Court in Johannesburg, with senior counsel Dali Mpofu defending Magashule.
Court proceedings are expected to be virtual due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In May, Magashule approached the high court on a semi-urgent basis after he was suspended by the ANC’s national working committee for failing to comply with the 30-day period given for him to voluntarily step down from his position.
He was suspended in line with the ANC’s rule 25.70 in its constitution, which requires all party members criminally charged to temporarily step aside pending the conclusion of their cases.
Magashule faces fraud and corruption charges in the Free State in connection with a R255 million asbestos project while he was the province’s premier.
In what is expected to mark a significant moment, the party top brass is this week expected to ponder the implications and react to Magashule’s high court bid to wave his suspension and nullify the ANC step-aside rule.
In court papers, Magashule has argued that the step-aside 27.5 rule adopted by the party’s 2017 Nasrec national conference, was unconstitutional because it violated the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.
He wants the high court to declare the ANC’s step aside resolution unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid. The embattled ANC secretary-general believes the resolution was adopted to specifically target him as Ramaphosa’s political opponent ahead of the ANC’s 2022 elective conference.
Magashule also wants the court to declare his attempt to suspend Ramaphosa as party leader valid and effective until it is lawfully nullified. He wrote a letter ordering Ramaphosa to step down as president over allegations of vote buying during his CR17 ANC presidential campaign in 2017.
He has brought out the big guns and has Eric Mabuza – who has previously acted for former president Jacob Zuma and acted for the former chief operations officer in the Office of the Public Protector, Basani Baloyi – as well as advocate Dali Mpofu, SC in his corner.
The ANC appointed high-profile law firm Ledwaba Mazwai Attorneys as instructing attorneys supported by three senior counsel members: Wim Trengove, Ngwako Maenetje and Fana Nalane, and junior counsel Buhle Lekokotla.
Independent political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga said Magashule’s court challenge was a strong indication that he was being pushed into a corner.
“He is facing a serious challenge of proving his case in court and a possible expulsion if he escalates the matter further,” warned Mathekga.
Other political experts said the raging clash would have a negative impact for the ANC in the upcoming local government elections, leading to voter apathy by supporters aligned to Magashule.
Said University of Pretoria political science lecturer Roland Henwood: “Implications of the Magashule-ANC tussle are negative for the party in the run-up to the local government elections, especially on the turnout by some party members – though President Ramaphosa is currently the biggest positive for the ANC among voters.”
Henwood said ANC unity was “a myth and, at best, an elusive ideal”.
“The interpretation of rules is dictated by individual interests – [the] same people who previously rejected going to court to settle party matters, are now doing exactly that,” added Henwood.
Concurring with Henwood, University of Johannesburg professor of politics Siphamandla Zondi said the task of building ANC unity was challenged by battles waged inside and outside courts.
“These serve to deepen divisions – not just between Magashule, the top 5 and the NWC [national working committee] but among followers of the two sides.
“What plays out in court papers and outside court, with every appearance, is the enrooting of factionalism, instead of uprooting it. If this continues, the ANC will fight elections on two fronts: internally and against the negative sentiment among voters.
“Amilcar Cabral was right when he said in 1966, a major challenge facing the liberation movement was a battle against its own internal weaknesses.
“The ANC has been weakened more by internal battles than external challenges,” said Zondi.
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe, additional reporting by Brian Sokutu