Vuyo Mvoko | What did the top six say to Ace?

After vehement denials, counter accusations and confusion, it became apparent that the ANC, too, didn’t know what to do.

Oh, how one would have wanted to be a fly on the wall of Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters, when the governing party’s top six officials met on Monday evening to hear party secretary-general Ace Magashule explain himself.
The day before, SA’s premier weekend newspaper, the Sunday Times, had carried a front page story under the headline, “Exposed: Zuma plot to oust Cyril”, naming as people allegedly involved Magashule, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni, ANC Youth League KwaZuluNatal secretary Thanduxolo Sabela and ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba.
After vehement denials, counter accusations and confusion, it became apparent that the ANC, too, didn’t know what to do.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe had been quick to dismiss the report as malicious gossip he said was “calculated to cast aspersions on the integrity and commitment of our secretary-general”.
Yet, the next day former national spokesperson and now head of the party’s presidential office, Zizi Kodwa, was conceding there was a case to answer, but was adamant those implicated should speak for themselves.
As the contradictions swirled, behind the scenes more and more voices were making themselves heard, mounting pressure on their secretary-general to come clean, failing which, the rest of the leadership would have to call him out.
As I sat in the foyer of Luthuli House on Tuesday around noon pondering how, as I was told, he was going to “clean up his mess without dragging the organisation into it”, one could only imagine the pain the former Free State provincial chairperson must have been going through.
Even agreeing to the interview we were about to do could not have been easy, certainly for a man who only 24 hours earlier would “not dignify these blatant lies and fabrications with a detailed response”.
You see, until the ANC’s elective conference last December, the 59-year-old strongman was still something of an enigma, ruling with impunity and exercising the raw, hard power he had amassed over the couple of decades he had ruled the Free State with an iron grip.
In the past eight months the position of party secretary-general has catapulted into the public arena an unwilling horse who had grown accustomed to accounting only to himself, with neither the desire nor the willingness to open himself up to scrutiny.
With uneasy nonchalance he would admit during our interview that there was, after all, a great deal of truth in that “incoherent political gossip” that the ANC had initially said was factually baseless.
Magashule was now ready to admit to me that he had indeed met Zuma to discuss – no , not a plot to oust Cyril Ramaphosa, as the Sunday Times claimed – but some “organisational issues” he could not divulge.
“Organisational matters remain organisational,” he would retort.
And oh, it was not the first time the two had met privately in the past eight months.
Why then, did he not disclose this information on Sunday, when the ANC released that statement that he, too, retweeted?
Well, he didn’t know the Sunday Times journalist who confronted him after one of those Durban meetings.
“The fellow” asked him if he was plotting and “ran away” almost immediately.
What was he doing with Mahumapelo and Zuma outside that Durban hotel, as captured in that Sunday Times picture? No, he met Zuma alone and wasn’t part of Mahumapelo’s or other people’s meetings with Zuma.
The picture was taken as they were interacting informally after their respective meetings.
The problem with any mop-up operation is that you are now obliged to reveal a great deal more than you could have gotten away with.
It’s the price you pay for a bit more believability, after obfuscations and denials.
And so Magashule had to admit too – the first time an ANC official was doing so publicly – that disgruntled party cadres from the North West province had approached his office and were among numerous others disputing the outcomes of the ANC’s December elective conference and threatening court action.
When I asked him whether he believed there were any grounds, for anyone, to challenge the December conference outcome, he replied curiously: “My role is to defend the organisation against any legal action ... that is also the role of the ANC collective.”
He would also reveal that he had asked Mahumapelo to help him deal with the disaffected members.
And of no little relevance is the fact that in May the ANC removed Mahumapelo as North West premier and last month disbanded his provincial executive, of which he was chairperson.
His colleagues in the ANC top six on Monday accepted Magashule’s explanation, but also gave him some advice he would not disclose, on how to better handle such situations in future.
“Something like this should have been nipped in the bud,” Mabe would add on Wednesday, “that’s why the secretarygeneral saw the need to state the facts, so that we don’t leave society with unnecessary suspicions.”
Suspicions, though, remain, and are plenty. So my wish to be a fly on the wall at Luthuli House at the next meetings of the ANC top brass stays.
With so many unanswered questions, we haven’t heard the last word on this...

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