OPINION: Ace in the hole

Norman McFarlane

It cannot be much fun being Ace Magashule right now.

The beleaguered ANC secretary general faces mounting pressure from within his own organisation. There is also growing public anger about his seeming impunity, despite public revelations about his alleged malfeasance during his tenure as Free State premier and leader of the ANC in that province.

It’s as if his place in the ANC Top Six makes him impervious to any form of censure, despite his recent public utterances about the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) that were so glaringly at odds with the position enunciated by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the impact of very the public spat, on the currency and the markets.

The murkiness of ANC internal politics means that much of what is posited about events and actions as they unfold, is little more than educated guess work, including the existence of two major factions within the party, loosely reffered to as the reformists on the one hand, and the radical economic transformation populists on the other.

That Deputy President David Mabuza was ostensibly firmly committed to the latter, virtually until the last minute during the ANC’s 2017 Nasrec elective conference, before jumping ship to secure Mr Ramaphosa’s victory over his erstwhile opponent and now Cabinet colleague, Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma, does prove that those factions exist.

Mr Mabuza and Mr Magashule at that time were part of what was popularly known as the Premier League, the third member of which was said to be then North West premier, Supra Mahumapelo.

All three quite naturally denied the exsitance of the Premier League, along with the notion that they were in any way colluding with each other towards the widely speculated outcome at the Nasrec elective conference: Ms Dlamini-Zuma seizing the crown of the ANC, and thereby, the presidency of the country, and affording her ex-husband, Jacob Zuma, the wherewithal to rule from behind the throne for the decade.

As an aside, that speculation resulted in a conspiracy theory that this plan was formulated some 30 years ago, long before Ms Dlamini-Zuma gave Mr Zuma the boot. It is also a grievous insult to Ms Dlamini-Zuma that she would even consider allowing herself to be a proxy for Mr Zuma’s continued misrule.

The cut and thrust of the factional squabling in the ANC that culminated in Mr Ramaphosa’s precarious triumph, also resulted in two of the three members of the Premier League in the ANC Top Six, putting Mr Ramaphosa in the unenviable position of not having a clear majority position in that vital forum – the other members are Gwede Mantashe, Paul Mashatile and ardent Zumarite, Jesse Duarte.

While the balance of power in the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) and national working committee (NWC) are critical to the longer term progressing of Mr Ramphosa’s reform agenda, in terms of the day-to-day management of government business, it is vital that his administration, and Luthuli House, are publicly on the same page.

The impact of the recent SARB disaster makes this self-evident. Mr Mabuza has, by jumping ship as he did at Nasrec, taken himself out of the equation, and is at best neutral. Besides, he knows he needs to build his constituency if he has any chance of succeeding Mr Ramaphosa in five years time.

Which leaves Mr Magashule as the remaining fly in the ointment.

He seemed to shrug off the public furore over the allegations contained in Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book, Gangster State, but the latest revelation, that he is under investigation by the ANC for his alleged role in the formation of Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi’s African Transformation Movement, may well be his undoing.

Ace may well now be in a hole that he has assiduously dug for himself, and from which there is no escape.