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South Africa’s ruling party issues warning over graft, infighting

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President of South Africa and President of the African National Congress (ANC) Cyril Ramaphosa greets the crowd after delivering a speech outside Lithuli House, the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg, on May 12, 2019. – The African National Congress (ANC) hosted a “Siyabonga” / “Re a leboga” gathering to express its gratitude to all South Africans for participating. (Photo by WIKUS DE WET / AFP)

South Africa’s embattled ruling party on Monday issued a stern warning to members facing graft or other criminal charges after an acrimonious weekend meeting.

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African National Congress (ANC) party talks reportedly spiralled into chaos over moves to speedily oust corruption-tainted members — some of whom are openly backed by a faction that opposes President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The monthly meeting of the party’s decision-making body went into an extra day with politicians loyal to the ANC’s graft-accused secretary-general, Ace Magashule, objecting to a seven-day deadline for him to resign, local media reports said.

But in a late-night statement broadcast live on national television, Ramaphosa said party “members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days, failing which they should be suspended”.

Magashule, 61, has been implicated in a 2014 corruption scandal involving contracts for asbestos-roofed houses awarded when he was premier of the central Free State province.

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He was briefly arrested in November and faces trial for allegedly failing to report corrupt dealings around the multi-million-dollar contracts.

Magashule is a close ally of former South African president Jacob Zuma and part of an internal ANC faction opposed to Ramaphosa.

In a strongly-worded statement, Ramaphosa said the party “condemned the establishment of groups operating as an organised faction within the ANC to undermine” it.

It also warned members against efforts “to subvert the ANC by seeking to create diversions” or use of party “resources to undertake counter-revolutionary activities from within its structures and facilities”.

He mentioned by name one group which openly supports and rallies behind Zuma and Magashule.

Magashule is a close ally of ex-president Zuma.

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Zuma was forced out in 2018 over graft scandals centred around an Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts.

Ramaphosa has since vowed to root out corruption.

Several Zuma loyalists have come under fire as a result, stoking divisions that have increasingly hampered Ramaphosa’s stewardship of the historic party of Nelson Mandela.

“The ANC is seriously divided,” Amanda Gouws, a political scientist at Stellenbosch University, told AFP on Monday. “This is a party that cannot govern itself, let alone govern the country.”

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