“There is a particular pattern now that I could say has become a rule book. When prominent political figures are facing serious legal issues regarding corruption, the first thing is to weaponise and politicise it by invoking their own factional base.”
ANC SECRETARY-general Ace Magashule’s comments following his appearance at Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on corruption charges signal fractious political battles ahead of the party’s national general council (NGC).
This was the view of political analysts after Magashule threw down the gauntlet to the ANC.
Magashule appeared in the dock for the first time on Friday as he faced 21 charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering linked to a R255 million Free State asbestos tender.
He was released on R200 000 bail and will reappear at the same court on February 19, along with his fellow co-accused. He was required to hand over his passport and he has been warned to stay away from his former personal assistant Moroadi Cholota who has turned State witness.
Political analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni, from Unisa, said Magashule’s speech was part of a known political playbook used by politicians who were facing corruption allegations.
“There is a particular pattern now that I could say has become a rule book. When prominent political figures are facing serious legal issues regarding corruption, the first thing is to weaponise and politicise it by invoking their own factional base,” said Fikeni.
“The second one is to say this is a political conspiracy. The third is often to say I know a lot and when the time comes I will reveal it all or I will write a book. And that is exactly what we were seeing there.”
Another analyst Ralph Mathekga shared similar thoughts.
“What I think was happening is that Ace wanted to explain what happened in a way that says he is being targeted for political reasons but not that he has a case to answer,” he said.
Mathekga further contended that while Magashule’s speech could be seen as similar to that of former president Jacob Zuma when he faced corruption charges, it may not entirely provide the same outcome for the former Free State premier.
“It looks like the same script, but a lot has changed since then. Maybe when people first saw this it excited them but I do not think the same thing would exist now.”
Magashule also surprised many when he revealed that the ANC’s NGC would take place in May next year.
Fikeni said the road ahead to that NGC would be divisive for the party.
“The factional regrouping is quite clear. The signal is that the next ANC policy conference is going to be used as a battleground for that,” Fikeni said.
“The ANC is differing sharply on policy and so forth. The radical economic transformation faction has been lobbying for interventionist policies.
“The policy conference is where you assess the strength of leadership. It is not where you change leadership, but it is where you test the waters of the strength that you have in the party,” Mathekga said.
Meanwhile, Fikeni said last week’s by-elections offer a small signal to the grip the ANC still has on the nation.
“From the local government elections in the by-elections, it means everything that happens to the ANC is still of national concern because it is still an established party that has not seen a strong opposition to dislodge it,” he said.
After Friday’s court proceedings, Magashule launched his ultimate defence in what he perceived as a political witch-hunt against him.
He appeared on a temporary stage where he sang to thousands of supporters who had braved the Bloemfontein heat to hear his voice.
ANC NEC member Tony Yengeni, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, former minister Malusi Gigaba, ANC MP Bongani Bongo and his co-accused in the asbestos case Olly Mlamleli came out in support of Magashule.
Magashule said he would not be stepping down as secretary-general of the ANC because he was elected by branches at conference.
Magashule also made threats to his detractors that he knew people’s corrupt secrets and would not reveal them until a given moment.
– Political Bureau