At the Freedom Day celebrations on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa urged voters to vote out those who were corrupt and those unable to deliver.
It couldn’t have been better timing for President Cyril Ramaphosa to demonstrate his power than when he addressed Freedom Day’s 27th anniversary in Ace Magashule’s home province, the Free State.
In this message, relayed at the ANC’s birthplace and on Magashule’s supposed turf amid divisions in the governing party, he emphasised the need for unity among South Africans and for them to “acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the diversity of this country”.
Organising the national address in Botshabelo, Mangaung, the centre of the Free State politics, is taking it a step further to send a clear message that he is in charge and there are no no-go areas for him.
Ironically, all this came on the eve of Magashule’s much anticipated step-aside deadline on Friday.
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Magashule, who is ANC secretary-general, has been embarking on behind-the-scenes preparations to launch what appeared to be a strong fightback to ensure he stays put.
He had been resisting the party’s instruction to step aside over his corruption, fraud and money laundering charges resulting from the R255 million Free State asbestos roofing replacement saga.
His ANC Fezile Dabi region at the weekend warned the ANC national executive committee that their “homeboy” was not going anywhere unless certain members of the party’s top brass also stepped aside.
It became clear the regional executive committee (REC) had in mind Ramaphosa and party national chair Gwede Mantashe, who allegedly benefited from Bosasa bribery.
According to the region, Magashule was made into a scapegoat as part of factional battles because the 2017 Nasrec conference step-aside resolution talked about allegations, not only charges faced by members.
The REC claimed to have obtained a mandate from branches to challenge the NEC decision.
At the Freedom Day celebrations yesterday, Ramaphosa urged voters to vote out those who were corrupt and those unable to deliver.
“I call on you to demonstrate, with your vote, your intolerance for corruption, theft and mismanagement of the funds that are meant for the benefit of you, the citizen.
“These elections are an opportunity to make your voice heard and to be part of the change you want to see,” Ramaphosa said.
“If those who claim to serve you are not doing so, vote them out. Over the passage of time our democracy has grown and matured.
“So, too, should our approach to exercising this important right, let us be guided by one loyalty alone, and that is to this country,” he said.
He condemned violent protests, adding that, instead, exercising a right to vote was by far the most powerful form of protest.
After 27 years the country was still striving to belong to all who live in it – black or white.
“Let us acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the diversity of this country, for it is what makes us who we are.
“We may come from different backgrounds but we call ourselves South Africans with pride.
“What is needed of us now is that we hold fast to the rope of unity as we confront our many challenges,” he said.