The ANC, South Africa's historic ruling party, has suspended its secretary-general Ace Magashule on corruption charges,
"You are hereby temporarily suspended from 3 May 2021 until the final outcome of your legal proceedings", Magashule was informed of his suspension in a letter signed by his deputy Jessie Duarte, deputy secretary-general of the African National Congress, informed Magashule in a letter,
The letter explained the decision would be "in the best interest" of the party.
But Magashule, the first senior party official to be sidelined in the wake of the ANC's new anti-corruption policy, has assured that he is not going anywhere.
Instead of stepping down, he in turn called on Cyril Ramaphosa to temporarily step down as president, invoking his powers as party secretary general.
a success for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was playing hardball with a divided party.
At the end of March, 61, Ace Magashule, was given a 30-day ultimatum to step down after being accused of misappropriating public funds while serving as premier of the Free State, one of South Africa's nine provinces.
The politician refused to resign, forcing the party to suspend him.
Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), which has been mired in corruption for several years, is seeking to regain its form in the eyes of dissapointed voters.
But internal supporters of Elias Magashule, nicknamed "Ace", are numerous, especially among supporters of former president Jacob Zuma, who himself has a lot of baggage.
"This is the first really strong sign that the ANC is ready to clean up its act. The ANC still has a long way to go but it is an absolute prerequisite for tackling corruption," David Lewis, director of the NGO Corruption Watch, told AFP.
"They seemed quite determined, but they have also mastered the art of second and third chances," he said, echoing the many sceptics who feared the ANC would not go all the way and sweep "Ace" under the carpet without confronting him.
"Uncle Cyril", as he is known to South Africans for his bonhomie and apparent goodwill, appeared for a long time to be isolated in this tug of war with the 60-year-old, who has been ANC secretary-general since 2017. But his suspension, and the fact that enough ANC leaders gave their endorsement to make it possible, is a sweetness for the president who has vowed to end the scourge of corruption.
"It's a major political victory for the president," Aleix Montana, a researcher at the Verisk Maplecroft Institute, told AFP. With Ace out of the way, the president will be able to "strengthen his leadership of the party, giving him the political space to implement his reforms.
The removal of Magashule represents "a consolidation of President Ramaphosa's power within the ANC" in the current factional struggles, which "harm governance", between his current and that of "former President Jacob Zuma and Ace Magashule on the other hand", analyzes the De Klerk Foundation.
It is also "a victory for the ANC", says political scientist Mcebisi Ndletyana, and "a demonstration that when citizens speak out and make themselves heard, they can move the lines".
- Gangster" rule -
The party had given "Ace", with a frown and a perpetual scowl, a shaved head and strict glasses, 30 days to leave on his own.
But the former ANC boss in the central province of Free State, accused by an explosive biography entitled "Gangster State" of having ruled as a mobster, missed the deadline last week, forcing the party to take responsibility.
His suspension, which was served in a letter signed by his deputy, Jessie Duarte, on behalf of the ANC, took effect on Monday and runs until the outcome of his trial, it was revealed on Wednesday when the letter was leaked to the media.
A meeting on Monday of the party leadership "reaffirmed" its decision taken in late March to require any member facing criminal charges "for corruption or other serious crimes" to resign or face suspension.
"You have been charged and summoned to appear in court for corruption and fraud, theft and money laundering," the letter said.
Many Internet users pointed out that this suspension did not deprive him of his salary, which the letter confirms.
Currently free on bail, "Ace" will be tried in August alongside fifteen or so co-accused, for stealing public money set aside in 2014 for the removal of asbestos from social housing, when he was Premier of the Free State.