South Africa's ANC to oppose court challenge by suspended top official

·1-min read
Ace Magashule, the secretary general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress gestures as he appears at the Bloemfontein high court in the Free State province, South Africa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) will oppose a court application by one of its top officials challenging his suspension, the party said on Monday.

Ace Magashule challenged his suspension as secretary general in court last week, the latest twist in a power struggle that has exposed deep fractures in the party that has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid.

The ANC said in a statement that the decision to oppose Magashule's application was agreed at a meeting of its top officials on Monday.

Magashule, a leading political rival of President Cyril Ramaphosa, was temporarily relieved of his duties in charge of the day-to-day running of the ANC early this month in line with tougher rules for members charged with corruption.

He faces corruption charges over a contract to audit homes with asbestos roofs when he was premier of Free State province but has called the charges flimsy. Magashule was granted bail in November.

Ramaphosa has staked his reputation on cleaning up the ANC's image, and the move to sideline Magashule is seen as an attempt to stamp his authority on the party before a leadership contest next year at which he is expected to seek re-election.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning, Editing by William Maclean)