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Ace Magashule taken to task as Cyril Ramaphosa flexes his muscles

2019-06-03 00:00

President moves to consolidate his power, taking NEC members to task over contrary comments and urging restraint

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC camp flexed their muscles at the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting this weekend, reading the riot act on so-called loose cannons within the party and calling for discipline.

City Press has learnt that party secretary-general Ace Magashule was among those taken to task over the alleged links with Mzwanele Manyi’s African Transformation Movement (ATM), which contested the elections in opposition to the ANC.

Some NEC members were also unhappy with his questioning of Ramaphosa’s popularity during the elections campaign.

“The resolution is that [Magashule] must be investigated with regard to the ATM. The officials will have to initiate an investigation,” said a Ramaphosa ally who attended the meeting.

Another Ramaphosa aide said the NEC came down hard on all forms of conduct that would have threatened the momentum of the ANC’s elections campaign, adding that Magashule’s comments – including that even Nelson Mandela was not more popular than the ANC – were widely read as an attack on Ramaphosa.

“There will be a formal investigation into all forms of conduct, including by those at the top which had a negative effect on the ANC,” said the aide.

The allegations that the party’s election list was manipulated will also be part of the investigation.

However, according to the source, “the main issue will be this two-tongued campaigning”.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said that if there was a feeling that the ATM matter deserved attention, then the officials would be best placed to deal with it, but the general sense from the meeting was that party leaders should henceforth speak in the same voice.

He denied that any decision was taken regarding a formal investigation.

“Not necessarily an investigation, but exactly the point that the secretary-general made – going forward, the expectation of all of our cadres must be consistent with the overall discipline of the ANC,” said Mabe.

“If there are things that warrant us to pay attention to a specific issue which, we believe, if left unattended, can undermine our good work, that issue will be attended to.”

With regard to the ATM issue, Mabe was coy.

“We had said that if there are things that need to be looked into – be it about the ATM or about things that happened during elections – it will be the officials who are seized with such things. The NEC would be too big a committee to deal with those things. If there is a feeling that something must be dealt with, it will be attended to. We have got officials whom we believe are capable of attending to such things.”

The Ramaphosa group also pushed for disciplinary steps to be taken against Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, also an ally of Magashule, for criticising Ramaphosa’s decision to reappoint Pravin Gordhan as minister of public enterprises, despite the Public Protector’s adverse findings against him.

An NEC member said concerns about Masina were prompted by his “problematic comments”.

“There were two views: that he should face disciplinary action, and that he and others – like [NEC member] Tony Yengeni – should be spoken to and brought in line.”

Those close to Masina said they were wary that the push to clip his wings was stronger this time around, after he survived claims in 2017 that he would resign if Ramaphosa became the ANC president.

“It looks as if Ace is struggling to defend him and they [the Ramaphosa camp] have found a way to rein him in. He may find himself in trouble because the wind is blowing in that direction.”

City Press understands that Masina was warned by those close to him on Friday that his tweet was reckless and could leave his close friend and ally, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, open to an attack over a Public Protector report which made adverse findings against him in relation to a holiday in Dubai that appeared to be sponsored.

Ramaphosa’s allies also strongly supported Gordhan.

In his political report Ramaphosa seemingly tried to soften the blows, saying it was time to cease hostilities and halt public spats among leaders, said the NEC member.

“The president also came out to say that this is not the time to fight, to differ in public, to speak in tongues and convey different messages. So, I think the message that came out is one that says we all need to work to consolidate the unity of the ANC and not be involved in public spats or things that would ordinarily undermine the very unity that must embrace our very existence.”

INTEGRITY COMMISSION WRANGLE

The report from the ANC integrity committee would be brought back to the next NEC meeting for processing, according to a member of the structure.

Magashule said issues of integrity and ethics were ongoing and the commission’s report would be dealt with at a later stage “once everyone has been interviewed”.

“The integrity commission is a work in progress. We will continue to engage on issues of integrity. It is an ongoing issue,” Magashule said on the sidelines of the NEC lekgotlaon Saturday.

“The issue of Masina and others is ongoing, but we agreed that this is the time to stop public spats and respect leadership. So, we will engage with those comrades who are tweeting; we will engage with everybody and now say to them: ‘Comrades, it stops here. Moving forward into the future, we are not going to allow you to do all these tweets. Please stay disciplined, stay loyal. We are one leadership and we are recognising the leadership of the president, the top six, the national working committee and everybody. We need to support one another; that is the culture of the ANC.’”

The secretary-general categorically denied that any ANC members – including Masina – would face formal disciplinary action, saying the party would opt for a more “patient” approach with any offenders.

“In the ANC we believe in correction. Human beings are not flat characters; they are rounded characters. So, we engage them. It depends how they act and react, and that is when time will tell as to when and where we should actually act,” said Magashule.

“But we will no more allow anybody to say anything they want to out there in the public. It is time for the ANC to act. We engage, we talk to you, we practise patience. Those are the qualities of an ANC leadership.”

THE LINDIWE SISULU RUMBLINGS

The removal of Lindiwe Sisulu as minister of international relations and cooperation to the portfolio of human settlements, water and sanitation has caused some rumblings in her circle, despite her having served in the portfolio before, under the Jacob Zuma administration.

Those who were more optimistic said she might have one of the biggest portfolios (in budgetary terms) and the most crucial post in helping the ANC win local elections in 2021.

“People may talk about land, but if you interrogate it, you will see that they would rather have a house, along with water and functional sanitation. Then most of their basic needs would be met,” said a government official.

Sources said Sisulu had an opportunity to make a name for herself, adding that she had worked well with Ramaphosa in her role as minister of international relations.

There was an impression created that Sisulu sometimes felt unprotected – for example, when the Rwandan government attacked her publicly and called her a “prostitute” for having met with a former Rwandan army general and for allowing Rwandan “fugitives” to stay in South Africa.

“The president did not say a word. She was left to hang,” said a source.

It is believed that former minister Jeff Radebe was earmarked for the international relations position, but there was concern about his wife, Bridgette Radebe, being accused of meddling in politics in Botswana.

She is also part of the Brics Business Council, which could create perceptions of conflict of interest.

Also troubling Sisulu confidantes is the fact that Ramaphosa had publicly declared, in the run-up to the ANC’s Nasrec conference in December 2017, that Naledi Pandor should be his preferred deputy – before he was overruled by his lobby group, who insisted on Sisulu as deputy because Pandor did not have a constituency to help him win the conference.

Thus, Pandor’s elevation to the position that Sisulu was enjoying does not sit well with those close to Sisulu.


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June 16 2019