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UPDATE 1-S.Africa's ANC decides officials charged with graft must step aside

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JOHANNESBURG, Aug 31 (Reuters) - South Africa’s governing party executive decided at a weekend meeting that party officials formally charged with corruption and other serious crimes must step aside from their posts, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

The African National Congress (ANC) has been buffeted in recent weeks by reports of graft during the coronavirus crisis, with state investigators probing irregularities in government tenders worth 5 billion rand ($297 million).

Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as ANC leader more than two and a half years ago, has staked his reputation on rooting out graft but has found it hard to make much progress given deep divisions in his fractured party.

But, stung by allegations of graft during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ramaphosa wrote to ANC members earlier this month saying its “leaders stand accused of corruption” and that the ANC “does stand as accused number one”.

Ramaphosa told an ANC news conference on Monday that the party’s National Executive Committee also decided that officials convicted of corruption should resign from leadership positions.

The ANC will put in place a mechanism for leaders to make regular declarations of financial interests, and guidelines will be developed on ANC leaders and their families doing business with government and public entities, Ramaphosa added. (Reporting by Alexander Winning Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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