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Ramaphosa, Magashule go toe-to-toe as tensions over Mkhwebane vote boil over

Cyril Ramaphosa and Ace Magashule. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Gallo Images/Netwerk24)

Cyril Ramaphosa and Ace Magashule. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Gallo Images/Netwerk24)

  • The NEC is set to debate the parliamentary vote on Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
  • Tensions are simmering between Ace Magashule and Cyril Ramaphosa over various differences of opinion.
  • Retired defence intelligence chief, Mojo Motau, will lead a march to Luthuli House.

Simmering tensions in the ANC over the parliamentary vote on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane are set to play out at its national executive committee (NEC) meeting this weekend.

The item on Mkhwebane was not on the official agenda sent out to the media this week, but it is understood that unhappiness from secretary-general Ace Magashule’s faction over the vote has dominated squabbles among the party’s leadership this week.

The meeting, which is to be held virtually, started on Friday. 

READ | ANC’s ‘step aside’ resolution in the spotlight at NEC meeting this weekend

On the formal agenda is a discussion on the clarification of the regulations governing the work of the party’s integrity commission, as well as a number of its findings which, among others, recommend that Magashule steps down because he is facing corruption charges.

News24 understands that tensions over the Mkhwebane vote boiled over during a meeting of the top six on Tuesday on Zoom.

The animosity was palpable between Magashule and President Cyril Ramaphosa, who sit on opposite sides of the table on this matter.

Two sources, who are familiar with the discussions, said Ramaphosa called out Magashule for undermining the top six. It is understood that this degenerated into a direct argument between the two.

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe had to intervene and call both to order.

The meeting had to be adjourned to the next day, where it was agreed to defer to the NEC as the final arbiter on the Mkhwebane vote instruction.

“This is going to be the main proxy fight,” a third source said.

The tension emerged after Magashule publicly opposed the decision for the ANC caucus to vote in favour of an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office. 

He publicly stated that the ANC top six was not a constitutional structure, a comment that apparently drew Ramaphosa’s wrath. 

The tone of Magashule’s supporters in the NEC was set in a letter by Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association leader Kebby Maphatsoe to Magashule – made public by spokesperson Carl Niehaus on his Twitter timeline – which requested that the NEC discuss it.

Maphatsoe said his structure was “deeply disappointed with the decision” that led the ANC caucus in Parliament to vote in favour of instituting an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office, following the recommendation of an independent panel to this effect.

The original motion was proposed by the Democratic Alliance.

Maphatsoe believes that ANC MPs voting with the DA goes against the ANC’s constitution.

He said it “was a terrible failure in understanding and acting in defence of the policies, aims and programme of the ANC. Nor does it past (sic) the test that it is the duty of every ANC member to fight against racism.”

He called on the national office bearers, who decided on the ANC’s position on the matter, to be reprimanded as their decision caused “discord” within the ANC.

READ |  Magashule’s allies caution ANC NEC that ‘secretary-general will not go down alone’

Mantashe was mainly responsible for whipping the caucus into line last week, hours before the vote, with the support of treasurer-general Paul Mashatile.

Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza, kept quiet during the virtual meeting, but Magashule and his deputy, Jessie Duarte, were both absent.

Magashule repeatedly said the ANC could not “vote with the enemy” and there would be no consequences for MPs who boycotted the vote. 

Other issues that have caused friction ahead of the meeting include a formation seemingly led by Niehaus, called RET national operations centre, which refers to the supporters of Magashule and former president Jacob Zuma, who say they support “radical economic transformation”.

Detractors of Niehaus have accused him of hatching a new party in Magashule’s office, where he works.

Meanwhile, retired defence intelligence chief, Mojo Motau, will lead a march to Luthuli House to demand that a document compiled by a group of his supporters – which contends that the enemy, neoliberalism, was within the ANC – be discussed in the NEC. 

Motau, who says he is a former Umkhonto we Sizwe commander, has invited supporters of Zuma to join the march. 

Last year, the SA National Defence Force reacted sharply when they suspected that Motau was encouraging members of the defence force to meet and discuss issues related to Ramaphosa’s leadership.

Fears were expressed that they could be hatching a coup. 

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