| Ace Magashule compares himself to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu

Ace Magashule. Picture: Rosetta Msimango Ace Magashule. Picture: Rosetta Msimango

  • ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has compared himself to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and remain in their position, he said. 
  • Magashule said the branches had to refine ANC guidelines on leaders stepping aside when facing serious criminal charges. 

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has compared himself to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been allowed to remain in office and even contest elections despite facing corruption charges.

“All of us are presumed innocent, until proven otherwise by a competent court of law, a real universal principle and I’m sure all over the world you can see it,” he told a press conference on Friday, hours after he and 10 others appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on corruption, fraud and money-laundering charges.

He said:

You can go to Israel, and the prime minister of Israel is in court, but he is still the prime minister because he is presumed innocent until proven otherwise by a competent court of law.

Magashule had, on more than one occasion, said he would not step aside from his position as secretary general until a court finds him guilty.

When questioned about this statement later, Magashule said Israel was a bad example to use as his party “supports the struggle of the Palestinian people” against Israeli occupation.

There had been calls for Magashule to step aside as the party’s secretary general in line with resolutions by the 2017 national conference as well as the national executive committee that those charged with corruption or serious crimes to step aside from their positions.

Magashule said the ANC at its last NEC meeting this past weekend had resolved to refer these guidelines to branches to give their input.

READ | ‘I’ve done nothing wrong, I’ll prove in court’ – Magashule trial moved to high court

This was somewhat different to what President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his closing address to the NEC meeting on Sunday, where he praised party treasurer general Paul Matashatile for leading a team to refine the guidelines.

Ramaphosa said the meeting adopted the guidelines which were “fundamental to the renewal of our movement and to strengthening the integrity and credibility of the ANC”.

He said the team would refine the document based on the NEC’s outputs, and would also consult on this with the provinces.

The party’s national working committee had been tasked with refining the guidelines within the next month “so as to ensure immediate implementation”, he said.

Magashule on Friday did not go into the merits of his case – something he’s avoided speaking about, he said.

He said:

As you all know by now, the indictments are voluminous and the lawyers are all looking at that and we are studying everything. This is all because I respect our courts and I always take counsel from my competent legal team. If it was just me, I would just talk, but from time to time legal practitioners have to advise us.

He said there were no new charges added as National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema on Friday said would happen.

Magashule called for the justice system to be “of the highest repute” and deal with corruption in an even manner.

He said the media or the court of public opinion should not judge him and his co-accused.

Magashule said he and his co-accused were ready for the case to proceed from May onwards, but some of their lawyers were not available so it was agreed that the pre-trial case would continue in August.

He confirmed that he declined to address the hundreds of supporters gathered in Bloemfontein to support him because of Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

He said:

As we have seen today again, Covid-19 poses many challenges to us which makes the achievement of freedom and justice even more difficult for us. No matter how steep the mountains we have to climb, we will never give up.

He urges supporters to respect lockdown regulations and to sanitise and wear masks.

READ | Magashule case: Organisers of gathering outside court to be charged for breaking lockdown rules

With response to questions over whether his supporters were allowed to wear party colours to support him, Magashule said this was allowed during the court appearances of former president Jacob Zuma.

Magashule, who addressed the press conference while sitting in front of a massive yellow banner with the ANC’s logo on it, also said he saw entire branch, regional and provincial structures, as well as national executive committee members from the ANC come out to support him.

“The ANC has allowed any leader, any supporter, any community member to exercise their rights,” he said. He added that the party has fought for the right to freedom of movement and association for all people when it fought against apartheid.

ANC Women’s League leader Bathabile Dlamini, former North West premier Supra Muhamapelo, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina and MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus were amongst those who came out to support him.

Three more accused were added to the court case and they were released on R50 000 bail each. Magashule remains out on bail of R200 000 and they are all due to appear in court again on 11 August 11, when the case will be transferred to the Free State High Court.

The case relates to a R255 million asbestos eradication tender in the province.

Magashule has maintained his innocence and that there was no corruption or fraud during his tenure as Free State premier, when the crimes were alleged to have happened. Magashule said they would prove their innocence in court.

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