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Step aside rule to become a bone of contention at ANC conference

ANC members at a stadium carrying flags of the party. Picture: Tshabalira Lebakeng.

By Nkululeko Zondi

With only six weeks left before the ANC's 55th Elective Conference in Nasrec, it seems that the step aside rule will be a huge bone of contention at the congress. The rule dictates that those charged with corruption should step aside from leadership duties.

The conference which will be held from 16 to 20 December 2022 and members of the National Executive Committee of the party, as well as, the party's top six will be elected there. This includes the position of party president. The person elected party president will be the one who becomes the President of South Africa in 2024, should the ANC win the national elections.

The step aside rule has divided the party, with some saying it’s been used as a tool to neutralize political opponents.

Earlier this week, in an interview with SABC News, minister of tourism, and ANC NEC member Lindiwe Sisulu said she does not think the step aside resolution taken in 2017 has been thought through properly.

"I don't think that we had seen it through to its end. I don't think we paid enough attention as we should have, because we are now prejudging a case that is before the courts and sentencing somebody for something we think is wrongdoing. And it only applies to certain people."

So far some of the prominent leaders affected by this rule include party secretary Ace Magashule, who was suspended due to a corruption case against him. And eThekwini's regional chairperson, Zandile Gumede, who could not stand for the treasurer-general position in her province, also because of a corruption case.

Sisulu said it seems "some resolutions are implemented faster than others" for political reasons. She said she hopes that the upcoming conference addresses the step aside rule and see that it applies to everyone. She used that the Phala Phala issue as an example. "For as long as it keeps hanging on the President, it keeps hanging on everybody else. It's not fair to us, I don't think it's fair for him either."

Phala Phala is private game farm is owned by Cyril Ramaphosa. On February 9, 2020 an estimated four million US Dollars (R60M) was stolen, without the President reporting the crime to the police. It is alleged that the suspects were kidnapped for interrogation. This was reported by former head of State Security, Agent Arthur Fraser, on June 1, 2022 at Rosebank Police station. He opened a case of kidnapping, money laundering and defeating the ends of justice against the President.

Sisulu has put her name forward to be voted as President at the conference in December. Although she is part of Ramaphosa’s cabinet, Sisulu has been openly campaigning for her boss’ job and criticising his leadership. In the 2017 elective conference, she had come forward as a candidate for President before withdrawing to be considered for the Deputy President position, which she lost to David Mabuza.

In January, she wrote an opinion piece in the Daily News against the judiciary, calling black judges "mentally colonised Africans who have settled with the world-view and mindset of those who have dispossessed their ancestors."

The Presidency, as well as then acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, released a statement saying she "retracts this statement and affirms her support for the judiciary," which Sisulu denied.

Independent political analyst, Solly Rashilo, believes that "a lot of MPs that Ramaphosa has kept for purposes of gaining votes for the conference including Lindiwe Sisulu will be reshuffled (out) as soon as the second term (of being ANC president) starts."

Rashilo is of the opinion that Ramaphosa will retain his position as President even though it is going to be by a small margin like the previous conference. The second term will be about Ramaphosa consolidating power.

Sisulu herself has said she would not remain in parliament if Ramaphosa is re-elected as ANC president.

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