03:16 GMT25 October 2020
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    African National Congress secretary-general Ace Magashule has been accused of failing to exercise oversight of a state-funded dairy when he served as head of South Africa's Free State. Prosecutors claim millions were embezzled from the scheme by businessmen linked to the ruling party.

    The second-in-command of South Africa's ruling party expects a media circus when an arrest warrant against him is served.

    African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Ace Magashule confirmed reports on Tuesday of his looming arrest by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, better known as the 'Hawks'.

    The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) reportedly issued the warrant for Magashule arrest for "failure to exercise oversight" over the Vrede Dairy Project, an initiative to help black farmers in Free State province, where he served as premier from 2009 to March 2018.

    ’’It's going to be a Hollywood style type of thing," he told the Independent Online. "But we will see." 

    Magashule refused to comment on whether other senior ANC leaders would face arrest as well.

    But in a strange twist, Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the agency "categorically distanced" itself from the Independent report, calling it a "malicious intent to undermine the integrity of the organisation."

    Magashule, elected as secretary-general at the December 2017 ANC Congress, is seen as part of a rival faction to that of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

    The Hawks raided Magashule's office in January 2018 after the NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit took control of the dairy, calling it "scheme designed to defraud and steal monies" from the provincial agriculture department. 

    In February that year, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane issued a report accusing provincial authorities of "gross negligence" in managing the dairy scheme and recommending Magashule begin disciplinary proceedings against them.

    The allegations stemmed from a 2013 investigative report by the Mail and Guardian newspaper that claimed the dairy was merely a front to funnel 220 million rand (£10 million or $13 million) to the Indian-born Gupta family of businessmen, many of whom were ANC members.

    The NPA charged provincial officials and several associates of the Gupta family following the 2018 raids, but dropped the charges that November. Whistle-blower Philemon Ngwenya was found murdered in October that year.

    So-called 'Hollywood'-style arrests of politicians and other officials at their homes, attended by the media, were a feature of the Hawks predecessors the Directorate of Special Operations or 'Scorpions'. Then-ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe denounced the practice in 2004 when it was used against ANC deputy-president Jacob Zuma.

    Zuma was later elected president in 2009 and 2014, but was forced to resign by the ANC's national executive in February 2018 after a media campaign accusing him of allowing 'state capture' by the Guptas - making way for Ramaphosa to assume the presidency a year before the 2019 election.  

    Those allegations led to the revival of NPA attempts to prosecute Zuma over alleged corruption in a major 1998 government arms purchase - agreed by the national government when he was serving as premier of KwaZulu Natal province.

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    Tags:
    Corruption, Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa
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