South Africa’s Ruling Party Moves to Suspend Accused Officials

South Africa’s ruling party has set in motion the process of suspending officials, including its secretary general and a former cabinet minister, who are facing criminal charges and have ignored a directive to step down.

Jessie Duarte, the African National Congress ANC’s deputy secretary-general, is drafting letters to those whose membership is being revoked and they could be served by Wednesday, said Fikile Mbalula, the party’s head of elections and a member of its decision-making National Executive Committee.

South Africa’s Ruling Party Moves to Suspend Accused Officials

Ace Magashule, the ANC’s secretary-general, and Bongani Bongo, a former state security minister, are among those facing prosecution for graft. Former President Jacob Zuma, who’s been charged with taking bribes from arms dealers in the 1990s and defied a court order to cooperate with a judicial panel that’s probing graft during his nine-year tenure, may also be in the firing line.

Magashule has repeatedly challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa’s authority and been linked to an ANC faction aligned to Zuma, who the party forced to step down as president in 2018 to stem a loss of electoral support. The exit of Ramaphosa’s leading adversaries could add impetus to his efforts to tackle the corruption that became endemic during Zuma’s rule and bolster the odds of him securing a second term as ANC leader next year.

The ANC is determined to prove to its members and the electorate that it is serious about cleaning up its image by dealing with those accused of graft, Mbalula, who is also South Africa’s transport minister, said in an interview on Tuesday. The party can’t have a special law for its leaders and a different one for ordinary South Africans, he added.

“The indecisiveness of the ANC in the fight against corruption, perception-wise, has put the ANC in a very precarious and defensive mode,” he said. “And you cannot only defend yourself in rhetoric, you have got to defend yourself by action.”

Mbalula dismissed speculation that officials who are suspended from the ANC could form a breakaway party.

“Who will support a candidate that will stand on their own and say: ‘I am opposed to the ANC, you must vote for me because I am accused of corruption and I refused to step aside?’” he said. “They will go to court to try and stay in their ANC positions, they will spend their money there. They will never go and form political parties.”

Bongo, who is currently the chairman of parliament’s home affairs committee and serves on the ANC’s national executive committee, told Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA on Tuesday that he will challenge his suspension in court.

Members of the ANC’s executive are due to meet this weekend, and the officials’ suspensions are on their agenda.

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