Niehaus dismisses talk of nationwide shutdown

Carl Niehaus, the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association spokesperson, has dismissed talk of a national shutdown in support of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and former president Jacob Zuma.

“It is false information and it may be an attempt by some people to spread that kind of information, trying to push people out, trying to take action against people,” Niehaus said on Tuesday.

City Press reported on Sunday that Magashule’s supporters were planning a series of shutdowns to protest against the ANC national executive committee’s (NEC) step-aside resolution, which will affect party heavyweights such as Magashule, Zuma and former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, among others.

The three political allies are facing criminal charges in separate cases of fraud and corruption, but they maintain their innocence. 

The step-aside decision is widely viewed as a move by President Cyril Ramaphosa and his supporters to rid the ANC of rampant corruption in its ranks.

Niehaus said those opposed to the step-aside resolution, namely “my comrades in the ANC who might feel not entirely happy about the pressure there is on the secretary general to step aside …”  were participating in “ongoing engagements” with the ANC’s internal structures.

“From my perspective, I am not aware of the plans read in the City Press about shutdowns and all of those things,” Nieuhaus said.  

The NEC decided on 29 March 2021 that party members who have been criminally charged have 30 days to step aside from their positions or face disciplinary action. 

Magashule faces criminal charges relating to the R255-million Free State asbestos project while he was premier of the Free State premier. He is out on R200 000 bail.  

A march against “judicial dictatorship” is reportedly to take place from the University of the Witwatersrand to the constitutional court in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on 9 April. The message “judicial dictatorship” echoes throughout the eight-page statement issued by Zuma shortly after the constitutional court heard that he must be jailed for contempt for refusing to appear before the state capture inquiry, chaired by the deputy chief justice, Raymond Zondo. 

“I strongly agree with the public sentiment that is starting to see the emergence of a judicial dictatorship in South Africa,” said Zuma in his statement.  

The so-called Radical Economic Transformation faction of the ANC, believed to be organised from inside Luthuli House, is allegedly a driving force of the pro-Magashule and Zuma protests.

But Niehaus denies these allegations. 

“As far as I understood the decision of the national executive committee there will be an opportunity for the national office bearers to engage at a provincial level with chairs and secretaries of provinces. And obviously, those chairs and secretaries from the provinces will again come with mandates from the branches of the provincial secretaries. Those are the processes that are legit,” said Niehaus. 

Shortly after the NEC announced its step-aside decision last week, Magashule said: “The organisation [ANC] has taken its decision in line with the Nasrec resolutions. I support Nasrec resolutions.” 

Responding to a question about whether he would still be at Luthuli House at the end of April, he said: “Wait and see.”

ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to the M&G’s requests for comment.

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