Suspended top S.African ruling party official takes Ramaphosa to court

FILE PHOTO: Ace Magashule, the secretary general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress looks on as he appears at the Bloemfontein high court in the Free State province, South Africa, November 13, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A top official suspended from his leadership role in South Africa's ruling African National Congress has taken President Cyril Ramaphosa to court in the latest twist to a bitter power struggle, an aide said on Friday.

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule's court action highlighted deep fractures in the party as it tries to clean up an image tarnished by graft allegations and prepares for upcoming local elections.

"I can confirm that the papers have been served and the matter is going to court," an aide to Magashule said.

In the papers, copies of which were circulating on Twitter, Magashule asked the court to declare the ANC's so-called "step-aside" rule as unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

Ramaphosa is president of the ANC in addition to head of state, and was named as the first respondent in the litigation.

An ANC spokesman did not immediately respond for comment.

The party executive agreed in March to add the "step-aside" rule to the ANC's constitution as part of a tougher approach to members charged with corruption and other serious crimes to push them to vacate their posts within 30 days.

Magashule, a key political rival of Ramaphosa normally in charge of the day-to-day running of the ANC, was suspended after being charged with corruption over a contract to audit homes with asbestos roofs when he was premier of Free State province.

He is currently out on bail, denies any wrongdoing and has refused to step down from his powerful ANC position.

On Monday, Ramaphosa and senior members of the ANC's highest decision-making body ordered Magashule to publicly apologise to the party after he unsuccessfully tried to suspend Ramaphosa from his post as party president.

Magashule also wants the court to rule that his attempted suspension of Ramaphosa is "valid and effective until lawfully nullified", and for the ANC's instruction to him to apologise to be ruled unenforceable.

Magashule's lawyer was not immediately available to comment.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; editing by Emma Rumney and Mark Heinrich)

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