Hundreds of African National Congress (ANC) members and supporters in Bloemfontein were left disappointed when corruption-accused party Secretary-General, Ace Magashule did not address them. Large gatherings – seen as COVID-19 super spreaders – are prohibited.
However, Magashule supporters disregarded the regulations. Magashule received a hero’s reception as he appeared in court on Friday.
Magashule arrives at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court:
Scenes seen prior to the 2007 Polokwane Elective Conference have resurfaced with Magashule in the dock, charged with fraud, corruption, and money laundering.
But his supporters feel he is being persecuted by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration.
Magashule’s case with 10 others and five companies has been postponed to August for a pre-trial.
“There is a legal and political part. Let’s leave it there. The ANC is dealing with the political part. I am happy with the legal part and I am hoping this matter will be finalised very soon,” said Magashule as he left court.
Magashule was held back from addressing his supporters, ferried to Bloemfontein in buses and taxis. He said he would not disregard COVID-19 regulations.
When asked about the people gathered in his support, he responded: “You see I am here. I don’t know who you talking about. I don’t see anybody here. But we always encourage people to obey regulations to wear their mask and social distance.”
When asked if he would address his supporters Magashule responded: “I will never disregard the regulations. I won’t disregard the regulations.”
Among his supporters, were high-profile politicians, some of whom believe he is being targeted internally in the ANC.
“What is this politics that we are playing? In the NEC over the weekend, I raised the matter of how many people have been charged that are seating in that NEC and how many of our comrades whose names have been mentioned in the Zondo Commission, must they step aside or were they taken before the courts. No! Why do we target one person? What have they done in the past four years? Nothing! Just to chase after the shadow of former President Zuma and chase our SG,” says Acting Mpumalanga Secretary, Lindiwe Ntshalintshali.
The political tussles and power play in the governing party are in full swing. Party leaders are openly nailing their colours to the proverbial factional masts.
A case of illegal gathering investigated
Meanwhile, police in the Free State have confirmed that they are investigating a case of illegal gathering following Magashule’s appearance. Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association Spokesperson, Carl Niehaus, has accused police of being used to fight political battles.
“Why this vindictive approach from the SAPS? It is a continuation of trumped-up charges against comrade Ace Magashule. It is just a continuation of the manner in which President Zuma is being treated. What we are increasingly seeing in this country is a dictatorship of the legal side of the judiciary and that judiciary and dictatorship are now overruling the democratic expression and processes in this country.”
Free State police say a case was opened under Disaster Management Act against those who organised the illegal gathering.
“After a situation analysis and calculated risks associated with dispersing crowds, a decision was taken as guided by the law to open a case under Disaster Management Act against those who organised the gathering. The provincial commissioner instructed the district commissioner at Mangaung Metro to put a team together to gather more information and make sure that case is tabled at the court as soon as possible,” says Police Spokesperson Motantsi Makhele.
Some supporters of Magashule have opposed growing calls for him to step down from his position. They say Magashule should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
“If then you are judging a person based on the appearance in court of law you are simply saying the person is guilty. I think this policy that says people must step aside is not working for us because we might end up with no leadership,” says one of the supporters.
ANC supporters have vowed to continue to support Magashule.
The case has been transferred to the Free State High Court:
Authors- Samkele Maseko and Thabiso Radebe