All members of South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) party who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days, or else face suspension, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.
Allegations of corruption against party members including Ace Magashule, secretary-general and one of the six most powerful officials of the ANC, have deepened fault lines within the party that has ruled South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994.
Magashule has denied the corruption charges, which relate to a contract to audit homes with asbestos roofs when he was premier of the Free State province.
In December, the ANC’s Integrity Commission recommended that Magashule step aside from his position pending the outcome of the corruption case.
The decision on members vacating their positions, which has been at the centre of talks in ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings, will be seen as a victory for Ramaphosa, who has pledged to clean up the ANC’s image with a tough stance on corruption since becoming party leader in December 2017.
It could have significant political ramifications, however, ahead of local government elections this year.
Magashule is from a faction within the ruling party that has at times appeared at odds with Ramaphosa since he replaced Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018.
Following the ANC’s NEC meeting, Ramaphosa said on Monday that the 30-day period “will be to enable the implementation of the decision in line with the guidelines, not to review the decision.”
“The NEC welcomed the decision by the ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule to use this time to seek the counsel of past leaders of the movement,” Ramaphosa added during his address to the nation.
Reuters could not reach Magashule for comment. He said in November: “I will only step aside if I am asked by the branches who voted me.”