In August, President Cyril Ramaphosa took an extraordinary step and penned a letter to branch members of the ANC on corruption.
The president’s strongly worded letter condemned corruption in the ranks of his party, saying the ANC was Accused No 1 when it came to the question of graft.
He said the stealing of the COVID-19 funds must be the turning point at which a line must be drawn in the sand and urgent action taken against the thieves.
Former president Jacob Zuma dismissed the letter as a public relations exercise to save the incumbent’s skin.
Zuma went on to make numerous allegations against Ramaphosa, including that the president was deliberately hiding the donors of his 2017 ANC presidential campaign.
However, the ANC national executive committee endorsed the letter, a move that strengthened Ramaphosa’s hand.
This letter comes to mind when one tries to make sense of the arrest of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, who was on Friday slapped with charges related to the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. The arrest of a sitting ANC official is likely to cause a tectonic shift in the governing party.
On the one hand, Magashule’s supporters are already arguing that charging him has effectively put the ANC on trial in the run-up to the local elections next year. They are, as expected, preparing for war. On the other hand, Ramaphosa’s backers had for a long time been waiting for him to be decisive on matters of corruption. They, too, are ready for war.
South Africans should brace themselves for open warfare in the ANC and government.
It feels like déjà vu. doesn’t it?
The last time a sitting ANC official – Zuma – was charged, the country’s political landscape changed irrevocably.
Zuma went on to use his 2005 corruption charges to ascend to the Union Buildings in 2009 on the ticket that state apparatus were used to fight him in the governing party.
Magashule too is claiming that law enforcement agencies are being used to
target him. Can Magashule pull off a Zuma moment? The charges serve as a litmus test of his support in the party.
The road to the ANC national general council next year is going to be a long and bumpy one.
The battle between the two factions is set to intensify.
Ramaphosa’s administration has drawn the line in the sand on the question of corruption. Whether the state will be able to convict Magashule remains to be seen.
But the president has taken the fight to his fellow ANC counterpart in the same way Mbeki did in the early 2000s.
It is recorded history how the Mbeki administration’s move to charge Zuma ended up in tears for him.
Will charging Magashule end in tears for Ramaphosa? Or will it pave the way for his second term?
Only time will tell.