It’s the end of the Ace machinery in the Free State, says interim provincial committee convenor

It’s the end of the “old machinery” and “selfish generation” that refused to consider a succession plan in the Free State. 

Those were the words of Mxolisi Dukwana, the newly appointed interim provincial committee (IPC) convenor and the arch-nemesis of suspended ANC secretary general Ace Magashule during a wide-ranging interview with the Mail & Guardian over the structure’s plans to stabilise the province. 

In May the ANC’s national working committee (NWC), populated by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s allies, took a step to further alienate Magashule from his province by appointing Dukwana — a Ramaphosa loyalist — to head the structure that would take the Free State province to the ANC’s national elective conference in December 2022. 

Some within the party considered this one of several chess moves by Ramaphosa in the past months, which cut off Magashule’s supply of allies and resulted in his temporary suspension. 

Dukwana, a former provincial ANC treasurer, was part of Magashule’s inner circle until the relationship soured and he was fired from the then-premier’s cabinet in 2012. 

Dukwane was rumoured to have been the man to succeed Magashule, and would later contest against the now-suspended secretary general, who was said to be ruling with an iron fist. Magashule was at that stage the provincial chair of the ANC as well as the Free State premier. 

Magashule is a lesson for ANC leaders

Speaking to the M&G this week, Dukwana said the Magashule you see now is not the Magashule he knew then. 

“Power corrupts. Once you get authority, people change. This is the change that we have seen with the man. Also, leaders must be prepared to learn and must lead with common sense. What is happening at the moment with the SG [secretary general] is a lesson that we must learn, all of us.” 

Dukwana said one of Magashule’s biggest mistakes was in thinking that he could run Luthuli House like he did the Free State. Unlike his predecessor, Gwede Mantashe, Magashule failed to seek help and mentorship on the role when he was elected at the ANC’s 54th national elective conference in Nasrec in 2017. 

“When Ace got to that position he thought that he was ready when he was not ready. Branches can think that you are ready, when you are not ready. He should have taken time to learn from others who have been in that position before. 

“He was never a secretary, he was a chairperson and he came from a province of the ANC where he was in charge and his word was final. Now he is faced with a situation where you are not the chief operating officer, you are the chief administrative officer. The CEO is the president and you have other officials in that space. You now begin to work in a collective when you worked as an individual before, giving instruction,” Dukwana said. 

“The lesson is that every member of the ANC must equip themselves properly, academically but also know the ANC better so that you understand the policies of the organisation,” he said. 

While Dukwana says he could work with Magashule to rebuild the ANC in the province, he adds that Magashule would need to understand the ANC’s value system.  

“If the value system of the person and the organisation are not talking to one another, then there is a disjuncture and there is a problem and because you joined the organisation, the organisation did not join you, you will have serious problems and you are going to be expelled,” he warned. 

IPC works with Magashule foes 

One of the first acts as the IPC was the review and setting aside of the 2018 expulsion of 16 councillors at the Maluti-A-Phofung municipality. 

The councillors, who had been strongly against the Magashule regime, had voted with the opposition against mayor Vusi Tshabalala. Tshabalala, a Magashule lieutenant, would later be reinstated and eventually moved to the provincial legislature. 

Dukwana said the IPC believed there was a mistake that needed to be corrected in the expulsion of the councillors. The ANC lost 10 wards to the 16 councillors who had formed a grouping called Map 16 to contest the by-elections against the party  

“The community sent a warning to the ANC that ‘you might think you are right but as a community we say you are wrong’. The ANC must be an organisation that is sensitive to this. We must be an organisation that is able to humble itself when we have made a mistake and I believe that the ANC must always err on the side of the people. So we had made a mistake,” he said, adding that the national executive committee had been petitioned to correct the mistake. 

Rebuilding Free State is no small task 

Recently, the Mangaung area has been engulfed by service delivery protests. The metro is marred by maladministration and failing service delivery, as well as political divisions. With the rise of independent candidates and allegations of corruption against the ANC, Dukwana said rebuilding the provincial party would be no small task. 

“There is a resolve in the IPC and understanding that we are not the best of the best and there are many others [who are] capable and want to help. We can’t be arrogant and think we can just dictate to people. We have been meeting in different regions with structures of movement and so far we have received all the support that we need. 

He said processes needed to be followed “in ensuring that we build branches before we can even think of branch general meetings, we need to make sure that branches understand their role and are prepared to work together.”

“We are under no illusion that this is going to be a small task, but the most important thing is to be honest with ourselves and deal with everything in government and make sure everybody accounts,” he added.  

He added that the IPC would come up against resistance — much like the interim structure in its neighbouring North West province — but said that the work must continue. 

The IPC in the North West had experienced resistance from those loyal to the former provincial chair, Supra Mahumapelo, who was recently suspended for five years by the provincial disciplinary committee for sowing divisions. 

In a statement on Tuesday, 8 June, deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said that the NWC resolved that in response to the deteriorating situation in the North West, it would meet with the IPC and ANC structures throughout the province this coming weekend. 

The meeting aims to outline interventions to help stabilise the organisation, as well as provincial and local government in the province. 

Dukwana admits that the Free State may be headed in the same direction, but he believes that communities and branches will intervene and assist the IPC in its work.  

“There are people who are not going to be happy with our stance because they want the old to continue. They refuse to die for the new to be born, but the new must fight … This is going to be that kind of a situation in the Free State,” Dukwana said. 

“There are those who are very corrupt who would want to continue with their corrupt activities and they think that we are a threat to that, and they will fight that tooth and nail, but once you [do] work [that] the branches and the people understand, they will not be able to go and divide people for their own benefit. They will be rejected by communities.”

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