African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Ace Magashule says he respects and has accepted the decision of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) for him to step aside.

On Monday, the governing party’s highest decision-making body instructed all members who are facing criminal charges to step aside within 30 days or face suspension.

Magashule and 14 others are facing corruption allegations in the Bloemfontein Regional Court relating to the asbestos housing project in the Free State while he was premier.

Speaking to the media in Soweto, on Wednesday, Magashule also dispelled suggestions that he would leave the ANC and form his own party. He says he will remain an ANC member until he dies.

The embattled ANC Secretary General, after a bruising NEC meeting over the weekend, took time to plant trees in Soweto.

Some may view Magashule’s tree planting as a stress reliever after suffering a crushing blow in the NEC with a resolution that he and all others charged with fraud corruption, money launder and racketeering must step aside in 30 days.

Consultation 

Magashule says he has already been in contact with some leaders of the party he will be consulting and will be making his way to Nkandla soon.

“Well I will be consulting former leaders of the ANC, who are not just leaders they are real veterans of our movement, am talking about former President Mbeki, former SG or former President Kgalema Motlanthe. I will be going to former Treasurer general Mathews Phosa, I think I will start with him. I am busy interacting with former President Zuma and my office is yet to interact with former President Mbeki.”

Magashule in jovial spirits didn’t commit that he would step aside when the 30-day period ends.

“Wait and see. The president communicated my decision. I was part of the meeting. I was not removed. I am still here. I was never removed.”

Seeking recourse from the courts to stay on as secretary general is also not an option for Magashule.

“You don’t resolve ANC matters through the courts of law, you resolve political matters through politics.”

The ANC is however adamant that should those who are charged not step aside by the end of April, they will be suspended and charged by the party.

Those facing such charges include Magashule, MP Bongani Bongo, former eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede, and Limpopo Treasurer Danny Msiza.

Divisions

Last week, the ANC in the Eastern Cape called on Magashule to immediately stop sowing divisions in the governing party.  

The call came after ANC National Executive Committee member Joel Netshitenzhe had written a newspaper article in which he launched a scathing attack against Magashule. 

Netshitenzhe had accused Magashule of leading a campaign to undermine ANC structures. 

Netshitenzhe, who had written the opinion piece in his personal capacity, had warned that Magashule’s faction, which is referred to as Radical Economic Transformation (RET) forceswould continue to fight against party structures.

This in reference to Magashule distancing himself from the party’s step aside guidelines.  

“And so, a trend is emerging where the secretary-general of the ANC is starting to stick out like a sore thumb among his peers and across the movement. This seems to form part of a wider campaign to undermine the structures of the ANC”, says Netshitenzhe.

Step aside policy 

In December last year, the ANC Integrity Committee recommended that Magashule must step aside over concerns that there is growing negative perception about the ANC’s National Executive Commission on its stance on alleged corruption. 

The party says its decision to recommend that Magashule step aside was based on the National Executive Council Resolution of August 2020. 

It states that cadres of the ANC who are formally charged for corruption must immediately step aside from all leadership positions in the ruling party pending the finalisation of their cases. 

Magashule faces multiple charges of corruption, fraud, and money laundering linked to his time as Free State premier. 

However, Magashule has repeatedly said that he will not step asideadding that he will only do so if instructed directly by ANC branch members at a Special Conference.  

Reporter Samkele Maseko shares more on the ANC’s Integrity Commission’s ruling on Ace Magashule to step aside: