Ace Magashule corruption blockbuster: ‘fake news’, ‘media conspiracy’, says ANC

EDINBURGH — The ANC has taken a leaf out of the Donald Trump school of public relations by claiming that a new book on its secretary-general Ace Magashule is ‘fake news’ and a media conspiracy. Magashule has been painted as a villain who is possibly more evil than former president Jacob Zuma in the book by investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh. Magashule is considering legal action against Myburgh, and the ANC has suggested that Myburgh should be taking his evidence to a commission looking into allegations of state capture. But, it’s not Myburgh’s job to play an active role in prosecutions; as a journalist, he has put pieces of information together to shine the spotlight on a powerful man who appears to be abusing his situation for business and other motives. What’s more, many of the allegations are not new; what Myburgh has done has taken them further and followed the trails of money and murders. Journalists at amaBhungane revealed in 2017 that Ace Magashule and his son Gift had been groomed by the Guptas, with detailed evidence contained in the #GuptaLeaks – a body of emails from the Gupta business empire. Gift, like Duduzane Zuma, was a Gupta employee for many years. Ace Magashule allegedly demanded favours through his son, including the payment of airtime for ANC members in 2014, in an attempt to secure votes at the last election. Ferial Haffejee picks up the latest developments in the story, with her report republished her with the permission of Daily Maverick. – Jackie Cameron

By Ferial Haffajee

As it began a special national executive committee meeting to consider the moral integrity and political astuteness of its election lists, the ANC said author Pieter Louis-Myburgh should take evidence of wrongdoing against party Secretary-General Ace Magashule to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

ANC party spokespersons, Pule Mabe and Dakota Legoete, spoke with one voice on Monday when they said that the findings in Pieter Louis-Myburgh’s new book, Gangster State, needed to be tested before a court or before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Magashule is consulting lawyers with a view to taking action against Myburgh (and, presumably, his publishers) as well as against City Press and Sunday Times, which gave valuable front page real estate to extracts and summaries from the book.

Myburgh’s blockbuster, Gangster State – Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture, landed on the eve of a meeting called to hear growing concern about the integrity of the party’s election lists.

The book contains numerous allegations of illegal and unethical actions by Magashule when he was Free State premier, a position he used to build both a business empire and a significant patronage network.

The party’s top brass pulled into the St Georges Hotel in Irene, Pretoria on Monday in luxury sedans and SUVs. Bodyguards sat outside the conference centre as the big cheeses filed into the room where a two-day meeting will scrutinise the lists.

A book stall outside the venue was not yet stocking Myburgh’s book but the book seller said he would be buying some as he predicted demand among ANC members for the story.

The IEC has opened the process for objections and amendments to party lists of candidates until Friday, which is why the special meeting was called.

Analysts and party election campaigners have told Daily Maverick that jobs and corruption have emerged as the two issues driving the electoral campaign and there are fears that the lists, as well as the new revelations around Magashule, could push the party below the 60% victory threshold they say Ramaphosa needs to undertake a reform agenda.

On Sunday the ANC said the coverage was “a clearly well co-ordinated media attack”. The party called the book “a typical Stratcom style fake-news book” (sic). Stratcom was the apartheid-era programme to disseminate disinformation into the public domain using media moles and sweetheart media.

These fake news stories, and the dubious book they are based on, are timed for publication barely a month before our national elections, in order to try and inflict maximum damage against the Secretary-General of the ANC,” said the governing party.

ANC NEC member and tourism minister Derek Hanekom tweeted that the statement had not been endorsed by the party’s top structure but Mabe and Legoete said on Monday that the party’s department of information and publicity was vested with the right to communicate.

While the ANC is running its 2019 national campaign as one against corruption, and for party reform, many leaders who are at the centre of the project of State Capture are high on the party’s lists.

These include three Cabinet ministers: Minister of Environment Nomvula Mokonyane, who is alleged to have received bribes in cash, alcohol and braai meat from Bosasa; Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe, who had three security systems installed and paid for by Bosasa; and Minister of Women Bathabile Dlamini, who perjured herself, according to a Constitutional Court judgment in the course of the grant payment scandal involving the payment agency Sassa and Net1/Cash Paymaster Services.

Numerous other party cadres who were front and centre of the era of State Capture have made it on to electable positions on the party’s lists. This has caused blowback in the ANC.

The Elders, a loose coalition of veteran members of the ANC led by Cheryl Carolus and another party structure called the ANC Veterans League, led by Snuki Zikalala, have lobbied hard for the special ANC NEC meeting to hear concerns about the lists.

Magashule has, until now, been the face of the defence of the lists. He has maintained that the lists cannot be changed as the individuals who made the final cut had not been charged or convicted for any crimes. Individuals who had been charged or convicted had been or were being taken off the lists.

At the Nasrec conference, the ANC noted “an increase in corruption, factionalism, dishonesty and other negative practices that seriously threaten the goals and support of the ANC”. It highlighted the monetary loss to development. It noted that “corruption robs our people of billions that could be used for their benefit”.

It said that “…the lack of integrity perceived by the public has seriously damaged the ANC image, the people’s trust in the ANC, our ability to occupy the moral high ground, and our position as leader of society”, reads the ANC resolution.

The party made 11 resolutions to insulate its elections from corruption, at both the level of party and state.

It resolved to “strengthen our understanding of our values, ethics and morality and the demands that the people, the Constitution and the rule of law placed on us as the guardians of the state and its resources…”.

The party resolved that it would “demand that every cadre accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices accounts to the Integrity Committee immediately faces a DC (disciplinary committee) process).

The party vowed to “summarily suspend people who fail to give an accountable explanation or to voluntarily step down, while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures”.

Instead of sticking to the ANC resolutions, Magashule publicly disavowed them when he handed in the party lists and faced tough scrutiny at the IEC headquarters earlier in March.

Magashule lowered the bar back down to that practised in the era of ANC president Jacob Zuma, when the standard became that errant cadres would only face a party axe if they were found guilty in court.

He is using this same position to defend himself against the accusations in Myburgh’s book. DM

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