A defiant African National Congress Secretary General Ace Magashule appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court today to face 21 counts of fraud, corruption and money laundering.
Shortly after the second most senior official in South Africa’s ruling party was been released on R200 000 bail, he told ANC members: “If you don’t expropriate land and nationalism the mines, you are not a liberation movement.”
He wi9ll appear with seven other on February 19 next year when the matter is expected to be moved to the High Court in Bloemfontein where the ANC was founded 108 years ago.
Conditions of bail prevent Masgashule from making contact directly or indirectly with with his former personal assistant Moroadi Chalota who has turned state’s witness.
Chalota is understood to be studying in the United States.
The case relates to fraudulent tenders for asbestos roofing on economic housing during Magashule’s term as premier of Free State province.
Magashule allegedly sent money from the tender to officials and judges. He also allegedly solicited money for officials to travel to Cuba.
His lawyer Lawrence Hodes noted that the charge sheet does not mention his taking any money for himself.
Magistrate Amos Moos pointed out the inconsistency of Magashule appearing in the dock unshackled.
He stressed that his decision on bail has nothing to do with Magashule’s position in society
Prosecutor Johann de Nysschen said Magashule was not handcuffed because of the degree of cooperation by the accused who turned himself in to the serious crimes squad known as the Hawks this morning for arrest and processing from where he was transported to court
Magashule was cheered by ANC officials in the court when he climbed up from cells into the dock where he sat alone.
More than a thousand people clamoured outside the court this morning demanding to be let in.
Numbers were, limited because of social distancing necessitated by the COVID 19 pandemic.
The crowd illustrated the deep divisions within the ruling party.
It was divided between people demanding justice and an end to corruption and those alleging that the charges against Magashule are politically motivated by President Cyril Ramaphosa who has never wanted him as the party’s secretary general.
They wore ANC regalia and carried banners in the colours of the ruling party.
This ran counter to Magashule’s request that his supporters avoid appearing officially to represent the ANC.
Leaders of the party present attended in their personal capacity.
They have not explained why Magashule has not been ordered to stand down, as party regulations require, until the criminal charges have been dealt with.
Magashule who maintains he is being targeted for his support of radical economic transformation and his opposition to white monopoly capital, told supporters the ANC does not belong to any individual. So its unity is important.
“The party has been infiltrated,” he said “There are those who are compromised because they were working as agents during apartheid rule.
“Any revolution has counter revolutionaries,” he said.
He was elected by a collective of branches. Only they, and not individuals on the party executive, can order him to step down.
“Nobody can remove us,” he said, threatening ing to become a whistle blower
“They say Ace Magashule is corrupt. I will show you corruption. I will give you details about the people who are making a lot of noise.
“You know they have received money and are still receiving money today
He accused his media critics of being sponsored by white monopoly and of failing to report the hundreds of Free State student he sent to Cuba to study medicine while he was Free State premier.
He offered to give the media information about the houses built under his premiership and the infrastructural developments even though he doubted they would use it.
Magashule appearance follows that of former President Jacob Zuma who’s trial on graft charges starts next month.