Top official of South Africa’s ruling ANC urged to step down

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FILE- In this Nov. 13, 2020, file photo, African National Congress secretary general Ace Magashule appears for a bail hearing inside the magistrates court in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Magashule may be forced to step down after the party’s integrity commission recommended that he be suspended because he has been charged with corruption. Magashule was charged in court with 21 counts of fraud and corruption earlier in December (AP Photo, file)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The secretary-general of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, may be forced to step down after the party’s integrity commission recommended that he be suspended because he has been charged with corruption.

Magashule was charged in court with 21 counts of fraud and corruption earlier this month. He is accused of involvement in looting nearly $13.8 million from government development projects when he was premier of South Africa’s Free State province from 2009 to 2018.

According to the charges, Magashule benefitted from a contract that was awarded to his close associates to audit how many houses in the province had asbestos roofs. His associates were paid approximately $15 million for the contract, but they only spent $1.2 million for the project, according to the charges.

Magashule is expected to appear in court next year to face the charges.

Magashule, who is considered a political rival of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa in the party’s leadership, told the commission when he met with them last weekend that he will step down if the party’s highest decision-making committee instructs him to do so.

The recommendation for him to step down may have far-reaching implications for other ANC leaders who have been charged with corruption.

The party has been criticized for not enforcing its policy of having leaders step down while they face criminal charges, including corruption.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga, from the University of the Western Cape, said the recommendation for Magashule to step down would test the party’s political will to rid itself of corruption.

The very top of the ANC will have to insist that Magashule step down, said Mathekga.

“If Magashule steps down, there are so many leaders who will also have to step down because they are also facing charges, and others have been implicated at the state capture commission,” he said.

“This has a potential to even rip through Ramaphosa’s own allies,” said Mathekga.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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