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World News

South African police issue arrest warrant for top ANC official Magashule

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African police have issued a warrant for the arrest on corruption charges of Ace Magashule, a top official of the governing African National Congress party, a spokeswoman for the country’s elite Hawks police unit said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: African National Congress Secretary General Ace Magashule speaks during an African National Congress Youth League rally in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, January 28, 2018. REUTERS/Rogan Ward/File Photo

Magashule, who told reporters he had done nothing wrong, is secretary-general of the ANC, in charge of the day-to-day running of the party which has governed South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

His arrest could have significant political ramifications if he has to take leave or resign from his influential position.

Confirming a report by local news website the Daily Maverick, Hawks spokeswoman in the Free State province Lynda Steyn told Reuters that Magashule was expected to appear in court on Friday.

“He hasn’t been arrested as yet but the warrant has been signed,” Steyn said by telephone.

Steyn confirmed the Daily Maverick’s report that the warrant was issued over allegations related to a contract to audit houses with asbestos roofs awarded while Magashule was premier of the Free State.

Asked about the report, Magashule said he was not worried and that he had done nothing wrong.

“If it happens, it will happen, so I’m not worried at all,” he told reporters in footage broadcast by eNCA television.

“I haven’t done anything wrong as a law-abiding citizen,” added Magashule, who was filmed while campaigning in the Soweto township for upcoming by-elections.

The ANC said it had learned of the arrest warrant through media reports and would monitor developments closely.

“The secretary-general (Magashule) 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.

One of Magashule’s lawyers did not answer his phone or reply to a message.

Magashule is from a faction within the ruling party that has opposed President Cyril Ramaphosa since he replaced Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018.

Ramaphosa has been on a campaign to clean up the ANC’s image after a series of damaging scandals during Zuma’s nine-year tenure. Since Ramaphosa supporters engineered Zuma’s ouster, Magashule has urged ANC members to support the former president.

In August, Ramaphosa said ANC officials must take leave from their positions if charged with corruption, and resign if convicted.

Another news report last month said Magashule’s arrest was imminent, but the Hawks dismissed it at the time.

Reporting by Alexander Winning and Emma Rumney; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Jon Boyle and Catherine Evans

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