President Cyril Ramaphosa came under fire from suspended secretary-general, Ace Magashule’s lawyers at the South Gauteng High Court for not stepping aside after his CR17 campaign was reported to law enforcement agencies.
The full bench of the high court – Judges Jody Kollapen, Sharise Weiner and Edwin Molahlehi – on Friday continued hearing arguments in Magashule’s urgent application to have the ANC’s step-aside rule and last month’s letter suspending him declared unlawful, unconstitutional, invalid and null and/or void ab initio (from the beginning).
The former Free State premier also wants his unilateral suspension of President Cyril Ramaphosa to be declared valid and effective until lawfully nullified and the ANC’s instruction that he apologise for issuing the letter purportedly suspending Ramaphosa to be found to be unlawful and unenforceable.
Magashule is seeking to have his own suspension set aside and uplifted and to be restored to the position or status he held or enjoyed at the governing party’s headquarters Luthuli House as of May 5, the day he was suspended.
Mahlape Sello SC, representing Magashule, disputed Ramaphosa’s contention that Magashule never set out why he should be suspended. She defended Magashule’s decision to suspend the president and that he was appropriately mandated by structures of the ANC.
In his letter purportedly summarily suspending Ramaphosa last month, Magashule stated that the president had been reported to the Hawks’ serious corruption offences unit and court cases relating to unsealing of his CR17 ANC presidential campaign documents.
Sello said Ramaphosa does not deny that the matter has been reported to the serious corruption offences unit. Instead, she added, Ramaphosa noted that he has been in contact with the serious corruption offences unit and that they have no record of the matter, then he goes completely silent about it. Sello told the court that it was incorrect for Ramaphosa to say that the letter from Magashule does not articulate the basis on which he ought to be suspended.
”He (Ramaphosa) chooses instead, for a reason best known to him, to rely on the report to the serious offences directorate (serious corruption offences unit),” she said.
Judge Molahlehi asked: “Who makes the decision suspend?”
In her response, Sello said the ANC’s secretary-general makes the suspension decision in terms of rule 25.70 of the governing party’s constitution.
”The conference has given Magashule authority to summarily suspend people who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step aside,” she explained.
Rule 25.70 states that when a public representative, office-bearer or member has been indicted to appear in a court of law on any charge, the secretary-general or provincial secretary, acting on the authority of the national and provincial executive or working committees is allowed to effect temporary suspensions and impose terms and conditions to regulate their participation and conduct during the suspension.
According to Sello, the ANC’s national conference further directed that the ANC shall take decisive action against all involved in corruption including those who use money to influence conference outcomes. She said the resolution requires any ANC leader or member reported to have been involved in corrupt practices to give an explanation to the party’s integrity commission or step aside and if they fail to do either they may be summarily suspended.
”We know in this instance that the first respondent (Ramaphosa) did not do either, he did not step aside and he did not give an explanation that can even be adjudged as to whether or not it’s acceptable,” said Sello.
“Why that happened, one may blame the integrity commission and its approach to the whole issue when the first respondent presented himself, but the fact of the matter is that as things stand the first respondent has not placed any explanation before the integrity commission,” she added.
Sello said Ramaphosa did not deny that he did not give a satisfactory explanation to the integrity commission and that the court should accept that there is no reasonable explanation. Ramaphosa appeared before the integrity commission in November last year but asked that he delay making representations as the matter of the CR17 documents is still before the courts.
The hearing continues.