Free State Premier Ace Magashule has been the longest serving ANC provincial chairperson in the country – having served the Free State in that capacity for more than 20 years.
But now, Magashule, who has been premier of the Free State since 2009, has to leave his post to take up the position as Secretary General of the ANC, a very hot seat, in Luthuli House. He will be following Gwede Mantashe, who was elected National Chairperson.
Magashule’s election has received mixed reaction.
Elias Sekgobelo Magashule was born in 1959 at Tumahule township in Parys in the Free State. He was given the nickname “Ace” because of his soccer skills. He entered politics in 1976 at the age of 17 and later studied at Fort Hare University.
Magashule was forced into exile in 1985 and returned to the country in 1990. He was then elected as the first Free State chairperson of the ANC, a position he has guarded vehemently since then. He was also overlooked for the premiership position three times before 2009, when Jacob Zuma became president.
Magashule’s claim to fame is his passion for education which led to his initiative to send students overseas on study bursaries. However, Magashule has lately been linked to the controversial Gupta family.
This is what Free State residents have to say… “…It is long overdue for the Free State to have somebody in the top six, I’m happy for that…. I am very happy for Mr Magashule as he was our premier and our kids got bursaries from him. So we are happy, he is from Free State,” says one resident.
Another adds, “Ace must go, why I say that he must go because of corruption. I want Thabo Manyoni….”
Political analyst from the University of Free State, Dr Sethulego Matebesi, believes the province has credible leadership that can take over the reins.
“If you look at the position of secretary-general Ace Magasgule, definitely he has to relinquish his position as chairperson of the ANC Free State and as premier and that also opens up another question as to who will come up because we know that he has been challenged by the former mayor Manyoni in the Free State and I strongly believe that somebody like premier Ace Magashule would like to see somebody who is very close to him taking over.”
For now it remains an open question as to who will replace Magashule as both ANC Free State chairman and provincial premier.