Johannesburg – Tuesday this week was the day when ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule was expecting to step onto the happiest podium of his political career.
This was a week when the SG, as party faithful fondly refer to him, expected a rebellion that was supposed to dip into outright rejection and defiance of his political boss and perceived archrival; party president Cyril Ramaphosa.
The battle for the soul of the ANC had never been so pronounced as this week. The political brawl between the party’s two most powerful politicians has so far been low in its intensity.
It has been a tense low-key affair, which Magashule has enjoyed to leave to speculation, assumptions and imagination.
Occasionally, it would become a little bit more defined, especially in those instances when Magashule could not resist to use some political platforms to take an indirect dig at Ramaphosa without mentioning him by name. Magashule is a brave politician.
He is not afraid to venture into battle with his eyes closed. As long it is going to produce his desired political outcome.
No matter the number of casualties that come out of his skirmishes, Magashule will venture into that combat if he is personally going to come out unwounded.
Yes, Magashule is known by many who are close to him for his knack of ignoring all potential hazards when he is in pursuit of a political goal. Likewise, he does not worry or care to subvert political processes when he believes the end justifies the means.
Like Jacob Zuma, his most revered pol i t ical mentor and adviser, Magashule comes from a political school that believes that some situations demand that the law must at times come a distant second to politics.
The current impasse between Zuma and the Zondo Commission being a case in point. Many people would look at politicians like Zuma and Magashule as men suffering from what clinical psychologists would describe as diminished responsibility or reduced sense of political accountability.
Magashule has proved to be more dangerous when he is on the receiving end of bad political fortunes, although it cannot be said that violence has ever been his political disposition.
Politicians like former ANC heavyweight and now leader of the Congress of the People Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota bear testimony to this assertion. Magashule was part of the ring leaders of the Free State crowd that successfully ensured that Lekota was unceremoniously removed from his position as Free State premier – the first time ever a provincial premier was fired from his position in a democratic South Africa. Magashule’s one-time confidante and close ally Pat Mathosa, who was propelled to the position of provincial chairperson after he defeated Lekota – again with Magashule’s backing – was himself later sent packing from the scene of provincial party politics by Magashule.
Former Mangaung mayor and Magashule’s provincial ANC deputy chairperson Thabo Manyoni, prominent provincial leaders such as Mxolisi Dukwane and the late former housing MEC Vax Mayekiso were some of those who were once close to Magashule and who later incurred the wrath of his storm.
When a surge of dissent against Thabo Mbeki in 2005 erupted at the party’s national general council (NGC) in Tshwane, Pretoria, after his dismissal of Zuma as his deputy president, it was not only the current Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa who led the charge against.
Mbeki. It was Magashule too. The party’s NGC is still engrained in the minds of many party followers as the theatre of rebellion, which was to finally lead to Mbeki’s ousting in that legendary Polokwane conference that ushered the new Zuma era.
Magashule was finally handsomely rewarded with his long-coveted first prize when Zuma appointed him Free State premier in 2009, the position he had coveted. Magashule was still lavishing in some of these political milestones when he was elected ANC secretary-general in 2017, a position which he has increasingly used to unsettle Ramaphosa as party president.
Could Magashule have bitten more than he can chew when he this week sought to sway ANC MPs against Ramaphosa’s wish to have them vote in favour of a motion to establish a parliamentary inquiry into public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office?
Magashule had been urging ANC MPs not to vote in favour of the motion in the run-up to this week’s momentous vote, although it was clear that Ramaphosa wanted the motion to go through. He lost.
There is an African proverb that cautions those who roast yam to be careful not to roast their fingers in the process. Could Magashule have finally roasted his fingers this time around after openly defying Ramaphosa even at the party’s meeting of top six officials?
It has now become abundantly clear that Magashule’s war against Ramaphosa is now going to be fought publicly after he daringly went on radio this week to attack his party’s (read Ramaphosa) position on Mkhwebane.
We can expect a gigantic battle. The Ramaphosa camp is of the view that Magashule has this time sailed into this particular battle without a life jacket.
Those close to the situation say Ramaphosa is like a buffalo (his nickname in ANC circles), which has a reputation of lying quietly in wait for pursuers before charging at enemies at the very last moment.
Time will tell especially after he failed to step onto what was supposed to be the happiest podium of his political career this week.