Ace’s fiefdom shaky as Free State leader targets his ally

Johannesburg – The fallout between President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has spilled over into the latter’s Free State backyard.

Sunday World can reveal that Free St at e premier Sisi Ntombela is planning a reshuffle of her provincial cabinet to oust Magashule’s allies, a move that is set to weaken the former premier’s power in the province, considered his stronghold.

A WhatsApp message has emerged in which Ntombela reveals her intentions of firing police, roads and transport MEC Sam Mashinini, the chairperson of the ANC in the Free State.

Ntombela made the comments on the occasion of the budget speeches of various MECs in the province, while Mashinini was seated next to her.

“…Ok, this one next to me [Mashinini] must go. I have decided. Waiting to discuss with president [Cyril Ramaphosa] and Jessie [Duarte, ANC deputy secretary-general],” reads the WhatsApp.

Ntombela’s move comes hot on the heels of the Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision to nullify the 2018 conference during which Mashinini was elected chairperson. Magashule’s supporters believe that Ntombela’s campaign to depose Mashinini and other allies of the former premier was emboldened by the court decision – which displaces Magashule from the power from his home province – and her decision to dump her former ally.

KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA – JANUARY 07, 2018: Zulu King Zwelithini teaching African National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa and fellow top six members Gwede Mantashe, Ace Magashule, David Mabuza and Paul Mashatile the Zulu dance on January 07, 2018 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Ramaphosa and his leadership visited the Osuthu Royal Palace to report decisions made at the conference. (Photo by Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Jabulani Langa)

The Free State premier, a deputy chairperson of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) and provincial treasurer is said to have had a fallout with Magashule, the longest-serving provincial chairperson of the ANC in the province.

In the conversation, MEC for agriculture William Bulwane calls Ntombela to order, pleading with her to remove the WhatsApp message.

“Premier check your personal WhatsApp. Premier please delete,” wrote Bulwane, the former secretary of the ANC in the province. Magashule and his allies are under siege after the party’s national executive committee (NEC) resolved to give those charged with corruption 30 days to step aside.

The former Free State premier’s forces were under heavy att ack last week, as Ramaphosa’s supporters pushed for the dissolution of uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, strong backers of Magashule, and former president Thabo Mbeki slammed his leadership.

Ntombela confirmed the conversation between her and her members of the executive council.

“We note the leaked private conversation between the premier and members of the executive council. It has become quite clear that the continuous att acks on premier Ntombela are not about to stop any time soon.

“In what was meant to be a private conversation between the premier and members of the executive council, individual[s], hellbent on discrediting premier Ntombela, decided to leak a private conversation to the public/media,” Ntombela’s spokesperson Sello Pieterse said.

“In a desperate effort to mislead the public, they even went as far as to falsely assume that premier Ntombela was discussing a member of the executive council.

“Premier Ntombela takes strong exception to private conversations between members being leaked to the public,” he added.

Mashinini declined to comment.

However, sources close to him told Sunday World that he was aware of the moves to oust him from the provincial cabinet.

Meanwhile, Magashule is not about to give up. His supporters told Sunday Word that he was consulting with former leaders of the party and his lawyers.

However, he remained resolute that he would not leave his office.

His allies want a special conference or a national general council – the party’s mid-term meeting – to decide his fate, not the NEC.

“The SG [Magashule] believes that it is only branches of the ANC, which are the highest decision-making body, that can fi re him. The offi cials were all elected at a conference, so why should they be fi red by the NEC?”

But Ramaphosa’s supporters are pressing ahead. They said it was a “ripe time that the ANC cleanse its image of corruption”.

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