South Africa Issues Warrant of Arrest for ANC Senior Official Magashule

South African authorities issued an arrest warrant for a top rival of President Cyril Ramaphosa, bolstering both his hold on power and his campaign against graft.

The warrant against Ace Magashule, the secretary-general of the ruling African National Congress, has yet to be served, Lynda Steyn, a spokeswoman for the police’s Hawks special investigative unit in the Free State province, said by phone on Tuesday. His lawyers have agreed he will appear in the High Court in the central city of Bloemfontein on Friday, she said. Magashule denies wrongdoing.

South Africa Issues Warrant of Arrest for ANC Senior Official Magashule

Magashule, who currently oversees the day-to-day running of the ANC, is the highest-profile serving politician to face charges since Ramaphosa took office in 2018 and pledged to crack down on the corruption that became endemic during his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s rule. The government estimated that more than 500 billion rand ($32 billion) was stolen.

“For the governing party, it has very serious implications, it could tear the party apart,”said Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst and author of several books about South African politics. “It will remain to be seen if President Ramaphosa can control the party’s reaction to this. There will be calls for Magashule’s removal, and those that will be on the other side.”

Clear Conscience

The case against Magashule relates to a 255 million-rand asbestos audit contract that was awarded in the Free State, Katlego Mogale, another Hawks spokesman said. Four government officials and business people were also detained in connection with the contract in September.

“My conscience is very clear,” Magashule said in an interview broadcast by Cape Town-based website News24 on Tuesday. “I have not done anything wrong.”

Ramaphosa won election as head of the deeply divided ANC by a narrow margin in December 2017 after seeing off a challenge from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife and favored successor, and took over as the nation’s president two months later when the party forced Zuma to step down. A faction of party leaders who were allied to Zuma and have loosely coalesced around Magashule, have repeatedly undermined Ramaphosa’s authority.

While the legal processes against Magashule could take years to be concluded, he may be politically sidelined in the interim. That’s because the party has instructed all its members facing charges to step aside from their posts until their cases are concluded -- although not all of them have complied.

The ANC urged its members to remain calm.

Magashule “reserves his right to remain silent, he will answer the courts and the judiciary at the relevant time once charges have been preferred against him,” said Dakota Legoete, a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee. “For now we request that our secretary-general keeps quiet, he and his legal team know what to do under the circumstances.”

A book released last year by investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh implicates Magashule in a string of other illicit dealings during his time as Free State premier. While Magashule threatened to sue the author for defamation, he never followed through.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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