Cartoonist Brandan Reynolds recently published in the South African newspaper Sunday times to a busy Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, drawing with his finger “the line that the ANC [Congreso Nacional Africano] has marked in the sand about corruption ”, and behind him, an unsuspecting Ace Magashule, party secretary general suspended for a possible case of corruption, holding a sandbag that was covering her. During this month of May, South Africans have held heated debates on television, launched heated messages on the radio and made jokes in reference to the pun to which the term “Ace” invites, which is both the name of the former head of the party, accused of several crimes of fraud, such as the word “as” in English.
The anti-corruption rule “step aside” (step aside rule), that invites to leave all official positions in case of being imputed, promoted by Ramaphosa when he was elected president of the ANC in 2017, begins to bear fruit. More than 60 party officials, not counting those in the Gauteng regions (where Pretoria and Johannesburg are located) and the Free State, are charged with corruption, embezzlement, fraud or other serious crimes. Many of them have already met the standard.
Eight years after the death of Nelson Mandela, the scourge of corruption that began to spread in 2007, covers most of the country’s provinces, with the politicians of the ANC, his party, which has governed since 1994, the majority involved. . In fact, this Monday, the Supreme Court of Pietermaritzburg resumed the trial for fraud, organized crime, corruption and money laundering – in total, 16 accusations – against former President Jacob Zuma, who ruled the country from 2009-2018. He is the most relevant figure in the CNA, whose leadership he exercised between 2007 and 2017, who sits on the defendant’s dock, and does so 15 years after he was prosecuted for the first time. It is the third attempt by the South African justice against the former president, who managed to have the charges dropped on two occasions citing “political motivations” against him.
Zuma has kept a low profile in recent weeks while Ace Magashule took center stage. During the trial against Zuma, the State will call 200 witnesses to testify to analyze the alleged cases of corruption and bribery, which will also include relations with foreign companies such as the French arms company Thales, with whose contract in 1999, when he was vice president, it allegedly benefited from four million rand (250,000 euros).
“The small margin with which President Ramaphosa won the conference [del partido] 2017 is the reason why his management is so questioned. And what we are experiencing now is the execution of the clear promise that he made when he became president of the republic in 2019 ”, explains Oscar van Heerden, member of the ANC and author of Two minutes to midnight. Will Ramaphosa’s ANC survive. “He said, ‘I’m going to clean up, make sure I end corruption.’ And for that he has to isolate certain people from his own party and make sure they are brought to justice, “he adds.
Ace Magashule, elected in the 2017 ANC congress as general secretary, one of the six positions of the party’s leadership, has been summoned to appear before a court in August this year after being accused of corruption in his time as prime minister. in the Free State province. The prosecution considers that he committed several frauds, including receiving two million rand (125,000 euros) to change the asbestos roofs of social protection houses, which were never replaced. In application of the rule “stand aside”, Magashule was invited to leave office until his trial is held, but he refused to do so voluntarily and the National Executive Committee informed him of his suspension.
The immediate reaction of the still secretary general of the ANC was to send a letter in which, in turn, he suspended President Ramaphosa from his position in the party, assuring that there are allegations of corruption also against him. “The norm applies to those who have been accused and must be held accountable to justice, not to those who have been able to receive allegations, which are many, and whom the party’s Disciplinary Committee must evaluate in due course. That is Magashule’s miscalculation that can even cost him expulsion from the party, ”explains Van Heerden. Last week, Ramaphosa gave Magashule 48 hours to apologize to the ANC, a deadline that was met without retracting, and he was replaced in office by his vice president, Jessie Duarte.
In early May, South Africans were able to follow their president’s statement before Judge Raymond Zondo, leading a public investigation created by former President Zuma in January 2018, to investigate allegations of state capture, corruption, and fraud in the public sector. Ramaphosa held the position of secretary general of the ANC at that time, and in that capacity he was called to testify. “He sent two messages: that the CNA and the president support the Zondo Commission, and that even though there are bodies in the closet, the CNA is prepared to speak and debate on the issue,” added Van Heerden.
For Jakkie Cilliers, analyst and founder of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS, in its acronym in English) the ANC is experiencing “an intense battle of factions that for now is winning Ramaphosa.” He considers that the prudence with which the current president is taking steps in the party will make others suggest the definitive expulsion of Magashule, without having to confront any faction. “The supporters of Zuma, with whom Magashule is related, are not part of a unified structure in the ANC, although it is a very important confrontation that has not yet concluded,” explains Cilliers.
It also highlights that the broad support from both citizens and the party protects Ramaphosa, who is having to manage that the oldest formation in Africa has gone from being a non-racial base to one dominated by traditional leaders.