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South Africa

President Ramaphosa winning on points as ruling party factions slug it out over graft and reform

The ANC's executive looks set to confirm the suspension of its Secretary General Ace Magashule, leader of the party's dissidents

From 8-10 May, the 86-member National Executive Committee of the African National Congress has the chance to resolve the power-struggle that has gnawed away at its leadership for the past five years.

The NEC will have to ratify the suspension of Secretary General Ace Magashule and any other party officials who refuse to step aside from their formal duties while defending themselves against charges of fraud and corruption (AC Vol 62 No 8, The state capturers fight back). 

Party insiders say President Cyril Ramaphosa has the support of more than 70% of the executive in the latest round of his battle with Magashule and allies. But neither side is taking that for granted. 

Magashule's side has been trying to negotiate some sort of compromise review body that might give him room to manoeuvre and weaken Ramaphosa over the next few months.

In August, Magashule and other senior officials in the Free State Province are due in court on fraud, corruption and money-laundering charges related to a project to replace asbestos in public buildings.

Although the ANC agreed on this 'step-aside' rule three years ago, Magashule and his allies, all close to ousted President Jacob Zuma, are contesting its implementation.

On 5 May, ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte formally notified Magashule of his suspension as Secretary General. Not only did Magashule refuse to accept Duarte's right to do that, he lent a note of farce to proceedings by writing to Ramaphosa, informing him that he was being suspended as President of the ANC, because of claims of vote-buying during the party's leadership elections in 2017. By implication, Ramaphosa would no longer be State President.

This gave opposition parties a field day on 6 May when President Ramaphosa appeared in parliament. An uncomfortable Ramaphosa refused to be drawn on the open power struggle in his party.

He appears to have his eyes on a bigger prize. If he wins this weekend at the NEC, he will not just have got rid of Magashule, his most determined foe in the party. He will also have enshrined much stronger rules on political accountability which might help restore the ANC's reputation. They could make a repeat of the state capture seen under the Zuma presidency far less likely (AC Vol 62 No 7, Ramaphosa rallies ANC against the Zuma-Magashule axis).



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