South African national shutdown planned by Ace Magashule allies

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s supporters are planning a series of national shutdowns to protest the party’s decision to force him to step aside.

This is according to a report in the City Press, which said circulars in support of Magashule called for the disruption of key points.

This includes blocking national roads, metro roads, access to and from business hubs, and access to and from rich neighbourhoods.

The group supporting Magashule under the banner of radical economic transformation (RET) demands that President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet are recalled.

This response comes less than a week after the ANC ordered members who’ve been charged with crimes to step down within a month or face suspension.

Ramaphosa announced all ANC members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days. Failing to do so would result in suspension.

This means that Magashule, a key opponent of Ramaphosa, will have to leave his post before the end of April.

Magashule is facing 74 charges of fraud, theft, corruption, money laundering, and asbestos contraventions.

The ANC Secretary-General and his co-accused will appear in the Bloemfontein High Court on 11 August 2021.

Cyril Ramaphosa South African President

Suspending Magashule and others who face criminal charges could elevate the fight between factions in the ANC.

Magashule has repeatedly undermined Ramaphosa’s authority and been linked to a faction within the ANC that remains loyal to former President Jacob Zuma.

After Ramaphosa was elected as President of the ANC in a close race at the ANC national conference in December 2017, Zuma was forced to step down as President in early 2018 after he became embroiled in a succession of scandals.

This formed part of Ramaphosa’s fight against corruption within the ANC and the government, which he declared as a top priority.

Ramaphosa is now asserting control of the party as he seeks to implement reforms needed to revive an economy that shrank the most in a century last year.

He also needs to consolidate his support if he is to secure a second term as ANC president – and the country – when the party holds its national elective congress next year.

The latest national shutdown threats do not come as a surprise.

Ramaphosa has previously warned against the creation of factions within the ANC, including the radical economic transformation group led by Magashule, that he said “undermine the ideological and organizational integrity of the party.”

Supporters of Magashule launched a series of proxy battles in the run-up to Monday’s decision about his future, including:

  • Backing students protesting over the cost of university tuition, after the government said it can’t afford to subsidize their education.
  • Defying a call by ANC Chairman Gwede Mantashe to back a vote in parliament to establish a committee to investigate graft ombudsman advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who is seen to be a Zuma ally.
  • Rallying to the defence of Zuma, who has refused to appear before a state inquiry into government corruption and faces being jailed for contempt of court.

While Ramaphosa’s battle with the RET faction is far from over, the side-lining of Magashule and his supporters will grant the president some reprieve from critics who argue he’s failed to act decisively against party officials accused of corruption.

The decision to act against Magashule also makes it easier for Ramaphosa to appoint more trusted allies to his cabinet.

Reporting with Bloomberg.

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South African national shutdown planned by Ace Magashule allies