African National Congress supporters are being ferried in buses from all over the country to Bloemfontein Magistrates Court where the party Secretary-general Ace Magashule is being charged for gross fraud.
“While there is still some jostling and shoving outside the court premises, with people trying to get in, some senior ANC members have already taken their seats inside the courtroom. Proceedings are scheduled to start at 11AM,” a source on ground said on Friday morning.
ANC members and supporters of Magashule are demanding that the barbed wire be removed to allow them closer to the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court. According to eyewitness accounts, Magashule supporters are trying to remove the wire barricade themselves. There are other members trying to stop their comrades.
Magashule is being questioned on charges relating to the multi-million rand asbestos project. R255 million was paid out in a tender to remove asbestos from the roofs on houses while Magashule was Premier.
Magashule is accused of swindling a total of up to R10 million (U$639,652) from the failed project.
Law enforcement issued a warrant of arrest for Magashule earlier this week. The Hawks – an elite crime-fighting unit said that he was expected to hand himself over at their Bloemfontein office.
Magashule handed himself over to the Hawks at the Bloemfontein office this morning at about 8AM and is already inside court as per arrangement with his lawyers. He was accompanied by other ANC National Executive Committee members Bongani Bongo and Supra Mahumapelo.
Following that, Magashule is expected to be formally charged by the local magistrate’s court.
Police Minister Bheki Cele has said that no one was above the law. A group of protesters in the provincial ANC want Magashule to account for his actions. Kelebogile Wesi is among them, “We are happy that justice is eventually taking place. Ace will have his time in court as he’s always declared that he is willing.”
Magashule said he would cooperate with the police insisting, that he had done nothing wrong. At the same time, his supporters, including Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwamdile Masina, have said that they would be here to support their leader.
Members are wearing ANC T-shirts despite calls from the party for supporters not to wear ANC regalia.
Military veteran’s spokesperson Carl Niehaus said, “The situation we are faced with is that the comrades who have come to Mangaung are here as people who have been relegated by their branches, by their regions and provinces to come. People come here as concerned ANC members and they express their allegiance to the ANC by wearing ANC regalia.”