The secretary-general of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), Ace Magashule, is to appear in court over alleged graft committed under former president Jacob Zuma, the police said on Wednesday.
Magashule is facing accusations over housing contracts awarded in 2014 while he was premier of the Free State province, the elite Hawks anti-corruption unit said.
An arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday over Magashule’s alleged failures to conduct oversight and report corrupt dealings, they said.
Magashule, 61, is due to appear on Friday at the magistrate’s court in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State, police said.
The scandal revolves around the equivalent of $16.4 million (13.9 million euros) in contracts to audit houses with asbestos roofs, awarded during Zuma’s corruption-tainted tenure of 2009-2018.
Magashule joins a slew of other senior government officials and businessmen who have appeared in court over the contracts and are out on bail.
“This is one of the most significant developments perhaps since the arrest of Zuma,” political analyst Ralph Mathekga told AFP.
Zuma was forced out in 2018 over scandals centered around an Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.
His successor Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to root out corruption in South Africa, which has been led by the ANC since Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994 after the end of apartheid.
Ramaphosa recently penned a controversial letter to ANC telling them to face the “stark reality” that the party was “accused number one” for corruption.
Magashule is part of an internal faction that has opposed Ramaphosa since he replaced Zuma.
Mathekga described him as a “very controversial” figure and well versed in “street politics” — the ability to muster grassroots support and hamper Ramaphosa’s path towards a second term in 2024.
The ANC said it would monitor developments closely.
“The Secretary-General previously spoke about his imminent arrest and … stated on more than one occasion, including through his legal team, that he would cooperate with any process undertaken by law enforcement agencies,” the party said in a statement.