“For now, it’s a big coup for President [Cyril] Ramaphosa’s faction of the ANC. He has sliced off the last major plank of Jacob Zuma’s influence in the party,” analyst Kudakwashe Magezi says of Magashule’s dramatic ouster.
Magashule was one of Ramaphosa’s fiercest rivals in the ANC and a close ally of former president Zuma, who is believed to be the godfather of the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) grouping within the ANC.
The now severely weakened RET is a faction of the ANC that demands the nationalisation of South Africa’s reserve bank and commercial farmlands – a call frequently heard from the EFF.
Magashule, as the ANC’s secretary general and the country’s de facto ‘prime minister’, first courted trouble when South Africa’s prosecutors charged him with corruption during an audit involving a contract for a huge asbestos removal project in 2014.
Prosecutors charged that while Magashule was premier of the Free State province, R255mn ($13.7mn now) of taxpayers’ money was used and laundered in a government scheme meant to replace asbestos roofs for low-income households.
Last week, South Africa’s prosecutors added to Magashule’s woes when they said Ramaphosa had allowed them to probe Magashule for corruption in a scheme that allegedly saw Magashule’s top aides get inflated state scholarships to study in the US. Magashule has denied the allegations.
When he was first charged by prosecutors in 2021, the ANC suspended Magashule from his party position until his name was cleared by the courts. A furious Magashule went on the warpath and counter-suspended Ramaphosa as party head – thus settling off jitters that rattled South Africa’s markets and global standing.
When asked by the ANC party to apologise to Ramaphosa for his ‘misdemeanors’, Magashule flatly refused, culminating in his expulsion this week.
Magashule was the political strongman of the Free State as both premier and party chief from 2009 to 2018 during the infamous Zuma presidency.
After the Free State supported Zuma for the presidency, Zuma returned the favour and gave Magaschule the premiership of the Free State.
Joining Julius Malema?
Despite his legal troubles, Magashule is said to be an astute ‘grassroots populist’ who still commands big influence in the Free State and the ANC.
His expulsion from the ANC frees him to join the far-left EFF led by Julius Malema to take on the ANC in the 2024 elections. Magashule hinted at this possibility in June last year when he attended an EFF rally in Soweto, Johannesburg, while on suspension from te ANC.
The ruling party was riled up and called his cavorting with the EFF ‘irresponsible conduct.’
Other former ANC bigwigs aligned to Magashule and Zuma’s RET faction have already started joining the EFF. Mzwanele Manyi, an ex-ANC bigwig and spokesperson for Zuma, joined the EFF last week and was immediately made a member of parliament. Duduzile Zuma, the daughter of the ex-president, has publicly toyed with a wish to decamp from the ANC to the EFF.
“It’s shaping up – hounded-off ANC bigwigs like Magashule probably see the EFF as their revenge ahead of 2024,” added Magezi. Some polls analysts predict a historic ANC defeat in 2024.
“The EFF packed with former ANC bigwigs like Magashule could give the ruling party serious headaches in 2024 and force the ANC into a coalition to co-govern South Africa.”
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