Hendri Pelser
Acting Digital Editor
4 minute read
4 May 2021
5:14 pm

First take: Well, what now Ace?

Hendri Pelser

Magashule is no political lightweight and he is literally fighting for his life, so expect a few more surprises with the step aside resolution.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule meets with former ANC president Jacob Zuma in Nkandla on 15 April 2021 to discuss the party's step aside resolution. Picture: Dudu Zuma-Sambudla/Twitter

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule is going to be suspended. Can you believe it?

To have been a fly on the wall at the last couple of ANC national working committee (NWC) and national executive committee (NEC) meetings… Especially this last one

Can you imagine?

(I guess we will have to just wait for another slew of leaked audio recordings like last month.)

The entire South African political landscape changed in one fell blow of a tweeted press release on Tuesday – don’t underestimate the severity of the NWC’s decision to uphold the ruling party’s highest decision-making body’s step aside resolution.

ALSO READ: Ace Magashule must step aside or be suspended

Firstly, it means that Magashule is most definitely out in the cold.

It is highly unlikely that his fraud and corruption trial will be finalised any time soon and the longer that Magashule is not in a position of power, the weaker he becomes.

It also means that ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and his allies now have the majority vote in the party’s top six (and much more power in the NEC).

This gives them a lot more room to manoeuvre after years of fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.

Lower down in the ranks, several cadres will be forced to vacate powerful positions and offices while having to step aside.

And, that is the last thing they want as there are many, many skeletons that are begging to fall out of many different closets while their backs are turned.

End of the road for Ace?

Magashule has fought a long battle to avoid today’s final confirmation of the step aside resolution.

At the end of March, when Ramaphosa made the announcement, he did not mince his words in the slightest and it was one of the most forceful speeches the president has delivered.

Since, Magashule has been touring the country, meeting with former ANC presidents Jacob Zuma, – firstly and then later, some might say, as an afterthought – Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe.

In-between there were quite a few meetings with ANC members of greater or lesser repute.

Ace Magashule

Former president Thabo Mbeki and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule met on Friday, 30 April 2021. Picture: @Magashule_Ace/Twitter

And the reason for his “consultations” has been quite clear: without the power of the Free State premiership or the ANC’s secretary-general’s office behind him, it is going to be much, much more difficult to potentially stay out of jail (if he is guilty, of course).

He was eyeing out his position and the potential support available to him. But, Ramaphosa et al had him with an ace-high straight flush. Completely.

The NEC had made the decision to formalise the step aside rule and now the NWC will implement it. Finish and klaar.

So, what are the options available on the table? Well, it will largely depend on which wallets Magashule still has access to. He could try getting the courts involved in internal ANC matters but the party’s constitution is pretty clear and that is why it was invoked to justify the step aside rule.

His other option is to continue trying to garner support within the NEC and NWC, but it seems as if he will struggle in the short term as he is most likely suspended.

Also, his suspension – and that of other members implicated in corruption – makes their bargaining power much less appealing. Especially publicly.

In the end, what happens to Magashule now will dictate the future of the ANC for many years to come.

Magashule is no political lightweight and he is literally fighting for his life, so expect a few more surprises.

If he wins this fight and the ANC continues not to hold its members accountable (obviously assuming that said members are guilty of corruption or other serious crimes), the same old party will continue to rule while the country falls apart due to fraud and rampant corruption.

If he loses and the clean-up campaign can gather some momentum, there might be a brighter future for all of us.

But, get your popcorn ready because this show is far from over.

Hendri Pelser

Hendri Pelser, Acting Digital Editor at The Citizen. Picture: Michel Bega