A top official in South Africa's ruling African National Congress has taken the party to court to challenge his suspension pending charges of fraud and corruption against him, heightening tensions within the fractured organization once led by Nelson Mandela.
Ace Magashule is the secretary-general of the ANC and a fierce political rival of party leader and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Magashule's decision to go to court is another indication of the rival factions within the ANC, and is viewed as a direct challenge to Ramaphosa's drive to rid the ANC of the corruption that has damaged its image _ and that of Africa's most developed economy _ over the past decade.
In court papers, Magashule has questioned the legality of the party rule, pushed by Ramaphosa, which forces ANC officials facing criminal charges to ‘step aside’ from their positions until their cases are finalized.
Magashule has said the rule undermines the constitutional principle of a person being innocent until proven guilty.
National broadcaster SABC reported Friday that Magashule's lawyers had filed the papers at the Gauteng High Court on Thursday.
ANC officials have been implicated in a wave of corruption scandals over the last decade, most notably under the rule of former party leader and former South African president Jacob Zuma, whose own corruption trial is due to start next week.
Some ANC leaders have already resigned from their positions under the ‘step aside’ rule and others may be suspended in the coming weeks if they do not stand down.
Magashule is the most senior official in the party to be affected by the rule, seen as a key policy for Ramaphosa in his battle with an ANC faction sympathetic to Magashule and Zuma.
He is set to go on trial in August on charges of fraud and corruption related to a government contract worth over $18 million.