Monday, 29 March 2021 08:26

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Photo Credit: Alon Skuy.

The ANC’s discussion document about the future of secretary-general Ace Magashule and others facing criminal charges has deepened factional battles within the party.

The debate on Magashule and others facing criminal charges in different courts intensified just before 5pm on Sunday, when party members expressed different opinions on the ANC Integrity Committee’s report that Magashule should step aside from his position.

"They are discussing the step-aside policy. It is hot. No final decision has been made, as members have divergent views on it. I doubt that a decision will be taken on the matter," one of the sources said.

According to the sources, the debates were robust and have ruled out the possibility of the meeting reaching a conclusion on the matter for now.

Late on Sunday night, it seemed that the ANC was ready to announce that those facing criminal charges should step aside within seven days.

But chaotic scenes broke out when the statement was read to NEC members, which resulted in an already set up link for party president Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver a public closing address being abandoned.

Magashule’s supporters were believed to be on the offensive, but were equally met with opposition by those in favour of his removal.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe was only able to say that the NEC meeting was still on, saying "we will issue a statement after the meeting".

In December last year, the ANC Integrity Committee under veteran George Mashamba recommended that Magashule step down while facing criminal charges.

The Integrity Committee asked the ANC NEC to implement their decision, and if Magashule resisted, they should suspend him.

The Integrity Committee report gained momentum after Magashule made his first appearance in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court in November last year on charges of fraud and corruption.

The charges against Magashule are related to a R255 million asbestos contract while he was Premier of the Free State.

The ANC NEC, which is the party's highest decision-making body in between conferences held an ordinary meeting, dealt with burning issues, including the COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan and local government elections.

But most of the discussions focused on issues affecting the organisation.

It’s understood that the meeting will continue on Monday.