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South African court upholds top ANC official Magashule's suspension

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By Reuters
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JOHANNESBURG -South Africa’s high court on Friday dismissed an application by the secretary general of the governing African National Congress (ANC) party, Ace Magashule, to have his suspension set aside.

Magashule, one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s main political rivals, was suspended from the day-to-day running of the ANC in May, in line with tougher rules for members charged with corruption.

He faces charges over a contract to audit homes with asbestos roofs, between 2014 and 2016, when he was premier of the Free State province. Magashule has called the charges flimsy and denies wrongdoing. He was granted bail after appearing in court in November.

His suspension was a victory for President Ramaphosa’s efforts to consolidate power over his fractious party, since Magashule is aligned with the strongest anti-Ramaphosa ANC faction, centred around former leader Jacob Zuma.

On Wednesday night, Zuma handed himself over to police to start a 15-month prison sentence for defying an order to appear at an inquiry into alleged high-level corruption during his nine years in office from 2009.

Both politicians’ court proceedings are regarded as a test for South Africa’s ability to enforce the law — even against powerful politicians — 27 years after the ANC ousted South Africa’s white minority rulers to usher in democracy.

Before handing himself in, Zuma challenged his sentence. Later on Friday the high court will rule on a request to suspend his arrest, pending a court hearing of his challenge that is due on Monday.

Ramaphosa, whose allies ousted Zuma as president in 2018, has staked his reputation on cracking down on corruption.

Analysts say he is also trying to stamp his authority on the party before the ruling party leadership contest, which occurs every five years, next year. The winner typically becomes president.