FW de Klerk

By the end of this week the ANC’s wayward secretary-general, Ace Magashule, either has to step aside from his official top-6 position or face immediate suspension. But already there are signs of soft-pedalling should the ANC not follow through, with Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile saying last week that the ANC does not regard the deadline as being D-Day.

That immediately opened up new space for a chorus of dubious voices going up in the ANC for Magashule to be given more time or for the ANC’s step-aside rule to be put on hold until the National Conference next year. These voices ranged from convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni to controversial ANC chair in Ekurhuleni Mzwandile Masina, and the suspended former North West leader, Supra Mahumapelo.

Others in the ANC, however, are adamant that the deadline should be enforced. Magashule himself and his close supporters have said he is going nowhere. As has become the norm, these contradictory opinions are attributed respectively to the two main factions tearing the ANC apart.

What could happen?

Either way, this deadline – delayed or enforced – holds serious implications for the governing ANC and for the country as a whole. If Magashule does not step aside or is not suspended, the following could happen, among others:

If Magashule fails to step aside but is suspended, the following is possible:

The background perspective

Whatever the outcome by the end of this week might be, the background perspective that built up over the last few months, is undeniably that the odds of survival have steadily been stacking up against Magashule and Zuma. There was a very decisive shift in the balance of forces in Ramaphosa’s favour. It is now clear that Magashule and Zuma are fighting a last, desperate battle while rapidly losing ground.

Last year Ramaphosa’s ‘strategic patience’ to reunite the factions ran out. He opted for delivering on his 2018 promise of rooting out corruption instead. Which has brought us to the current situation.

Even so, it is unlikely that the fight will soon be over. ANC branches are starting to prepare for their branch general meetings (BGMs) that will precede the usually hotly contested regional and provincial conferences. The outcomes are critical for Ramaphosa as from these lower structures voting delegates are selected to attend the later elective national conference. For Magashule and company to influence this however, it would be crucial for them to hold onto the office of secretary-general.

Magashule & Zuma’s last desperate battle

The odds have steadily and overwhelmingly been stacking up against Magashule and Zuma. Firstly, at the time of writing, the Constitutional Court still had not ruled on Zuma’s contempt-of-court charge. If found guilty and sentenced, it could be an additional blow to the Zuma/Magashule-led RET faction. Meanwhile, other recent setbacks for the faction included:

What comes next?

If the Zuma/Magashule faction could somehow hold on to the powerful SG’s office, they could arguably use it to influence the composition of branch- and regional-level delegations to the NGC and the National Conference, or to mobilise a grassroots movement against Ramaphosa at these two events. However, their hold on this office seems to be slipping fast.

It is possible but unlikely that Magashule and Zuma may finally admit defeat and the whole thing fizzles out. More likely is that they will continue agitating for Ramaphosa’s fall – and their evasion of justice – even if ousted from the ANC, with attempts to use branch structures and events like the NGC to achieve Ramaphosa’s recall or an early elective conference. Or they could break away and form a new radical populist party – perhaps even merging with the EFF to become the new official opposition.

Time will tell. But for now, we are seeing the last desperate final struggle of a disruptive force, with Magashule, Zuma and the RET faction rapidly losing ground. But it could still get messy.

By Stef Terblanche, independent political risk analyst and member of the FW de Klerk Foundation Panel of Contributors

Photo: https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/magashule-adamant-that-no-one-can-remove-him-from-the-anc/