Arresting Ace a last resort in a political matrix of a powerless president

Recent vibrance of the NPA, Hawks and Asset Forfeiture Unit is welcomed by many in the generic sense. For some the institutions of the state are finally at work and as some claim resourced to arrest and convict. While this may be the case or not, my good friend the late Land Claims Judge President Fikile ‘Bra Fiks’ Bam told me many years ago, cases are won not in arrests [regardless to drama] but on evidence that can stand legal scrutiny. I have often thought of these words as I surveyed SA when arrests take place. We also know arrests can adopt forms of Hollywood drama as we saw when Duduzane Zuma a few years ago arrived at ORT for his late brother’s death. We know how that ended in the dust.

South Africans have been primed of an impending arrest of some high ranking ANC leader. That narrative was carried by mainstream media and was running wild on social media platforms. The speculation gained intensity when many of us knew who the prime target is. We thus knew of an impending warrant of arrest for ANC SG Ace Magashule. This arrest is long in the making if you followed the like of Peter Bruce and Max Du Preez, to name a few.

There is this belief that if President Cyril Ramaphosa wants to be effective he has to deal with the elected ANC Secretary-General. Ace has been demonised as the second coming of Jacob Zuma and in our body politic has become the de-facto target to be offloaded.  In a sense in typical desperate USA Democrat politics that have targeted Donald Trump as the sum-total of all the problems with America. Likewise, Magashule must fall because that will automatically mean an ANC under full control of Ramaphosa. This reasoning is porous to say the least.

Due to brevity challenges, we will not deal with the genesis or essence of Magashule being targeted in the singularity of person, suffice to say it is a given that the ANC is divided and endemically factionalised in which there are constant both mild and aggressive tectonic shifts and realignments of the balance of forces. What can be comfortably accepted is that ANC president Ramaphosa is not in control of the ANC, he lost that battle ages ago and Magashule stands central in that equation of power dynamics. His recent organisational report tabled flagged the failure of progress on the part of an ANC government to give effect to the adopted resolutions.

We know of the arrest, and denials must be better plastered. Piet Rampedi of the INL is adamant the Hawks are engaging in flagrant lies INL had access to the arrest warrant. The arrest of ANC SG Magashule is therefore, imminent it was confirmed and reconfirmed by Ace himself as was planned for Friday. Very late last night Brigadier Mulaudzi of the Hawks released a very short statement essentially denying this impending arrest and thus reduced the INL news report as fake news.

Is it possible that the Hawks were at public relations level outfoxed because INL dared to publish this arrest notification? Were they thus outfoxed by the publication of the impending arrest, and didn’t expect a publication least from the INL? Following ANC and SA politics renders one cynical on many occasions yet I have lived long enough to know to be cynical does not automatically translate to be a conspiracy theorist. Often truth stares us in the face when we look for it behind doors and in hiding spots. To this end, is it plausible that there was a political intervention, my gut says this is what went down late last night? Somebody intervened but who, for what reasons and why?  Very late last night news-platform, eNCA, screened a group of its anchors around a poker-table and the inscription rolling off was, “Is the Ace bigger than the King”. We know this is arrest is about politics and political survival in which the eNCA simulated king is more than wounded.

Maybe we must start by asking who has the potential power to intervene to stop an arrest in a constitutional democracy? If an arrest could be stopped is it not to assume that likewise, an external intervention could initiate an arrest? What does this mean for the claim of state institutions being repurposed for political ends?

Is it possible that the planned Friday arrest was aimed to extend maximum impact in drama affording mainline media to have their political field day as part of the usual factional PR campaigns?

It was rather interesting to read a tweet from News 24 journalist Pieter Du Toit author of a purported bible on Ace Magashule. In such, he made the INL arrest report as fake news. The questions that involuntarily thrust itself on my “cynical” mind is – How does Du Toit not employed by the Hawks in an upfront sense knows the status of an arrest in frames of fake or real? By logical assumption if not implication does Du Toit know because he is informed or part of decisions? Who in the NPA or Hawks would be informing people like Du Toit?

What to make of the advanced cleaning up of the state investigative institutions as is so glibly claimed by this administration? What also vibrates louder and louder is the abuse of the judiciary in crafting the narrative that the arrests all have to do with corruption when we who follow politics know this is all about the factional politics of the ANC.

We may look at these current arrests as brave and necessary work showing the wheels of justice grinding, yet nothing takes place in a vacuum. Meaning there is a political context defined in an organisational setting and national South Africa. These constitute the intertwined canvasses against which proverbial pictures are painted. Placing these arrests outside these political contexts is to wholly misunderstand what is at play. What then are the broader macro-dynamics that defines a need to have a pliable and malleable ANC?

What are the micro issues vibrating in the background? At the micro-level, the RET forces that have grown in leaps and bounds in demanding an ANC government follow-through in implementing ANC resolutions may be impacted through his arrest. The internal dynamics for control which Ace Magashule against the odds continued to keep together would also now be impacted. The muttered step-aside games of those who face allegations are brought to the fore since now the claim is you were arrested so it’s beyond allegations as many from ANC president stand accused of.

My reading is what is central is the upcoming NGC. Most ignore this in between conference midterm milestone of ANC organisational reflection.  It can be argued this is arguably one of the most anticipated NGC’s. I am not convinced that Ramaphosa is at peace with what may happen at the NGC. He may very well be active sending out feelers if not people to test waters so as to gauge the temperature and he may have been advised the precedent of Mbeki and Zuma removals which now is an ANC practice may visit upon him before the end of his first term.

So, warrants, arrests, denials and public relations is the order of the day because things are not as straightforward and simple as it pretends. The next few weeks leading to the end of 2020 will confirm these my questions because we all know Ace will be arrested, let us stop playing games, if not today, tomorrow or next week, its more than on the cards.  It is the proverbial ace card to be played.

Let me dare to say Ramaphosa played his last card and it was meant to be an ace while dealing with Ace but it backfired to the point that he arguably had to intervene to temporarily stop this arrest. This first round, for now, is an even round, but this is a heavyweight contest of 15 rounds. I am just not sure if Ramaphosa was well advised because this arrest beyond angering many in the ANC will not work for his ongoing leadership survival since he may just have committed political suicide. The battle lines have seldom been clearer drawn. Let us wait and see.

  • Clyde N. S. Ramalaine is an author, writer and commentator.

OPINION: Clyde Ramalaine