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Two-step or step aside: what’s the rule, ANC?

By now you’re probably familiar with the ANC’s “step aside” rule. We’ve told you about it often enough: The 2017 resolution says that those who are criminally charged should step aside from their positions in the ANC and in government. It speaks volumes that it’s taken the party this long to formalise a principle this basic and that it was fought against by no less a figure than the ANC’s now suspended Secretary-General, Ace Magashule. We thought that case may have set a precedent…Ha! Silly us. The party’s provincial structures in KZN now seem to have decided that the rule only applies at the national level.

On Sunday, the party in eThekwini re-elected corruption-accused Zandile Gumede as its regional chair. Last week we told you that ANC member Mandla Msibi, who is charged with murder, was told to step aside just two days after being elected as Mpumalanga treasurer. We’re yet to see Gumede being asked to do the same. She is facing fraud, corruption and money-laundering charges with 21 other co-accused relating to the R320-million Durban Solid Waste tender. 

The problem is that nothing in the resolution explicitly forbids charged leaders from running for positions and getting re-elected. 🤷‍♀️ So the ANC is left with skirmishes on this matter in every corner of its messy body politic, as leaders try to find loopholes and ways around the rule. 

Take ANC women’s league president Bathabile Dlamini. She was charged with perjury and sentenced to four years in jail or a fine of R200 000. Her camp says the rule doesn’t apply to her as she opted to pay the fine. Strange logic indeed, but it’s one example of the case-by-case problem that national leadership has on its hands.  

If you’re finding this ongoing story exhausting, you’re not alone. The ANC is beginning to lose relevance – and voters. The party should expect more of the same if it keeps stepping around its own regulations instead of taking proper action against those who won’t abide by the rules.  

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 11 April  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.