Cape Town — South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has suspended its Secretary-General, Ace Magashule, after his indictment on corruption charges.
This comes after the party resolved to suspend members facing serious criminal charges and if they refuse to step down voluntarily.
The ANC resolved at its 2017 national conference that any representative, elected or employed, who is criminally charged should "step aside" pending the resolution of their case.
Several months ago, the party's Integrity Commission ruled that Magashule must stand down after being charged with 74 counts of corruption and fraud. The charges followed the squandering of U.S.$16.1 million in an audit of asbestos roofs which needed to be replaced on houses in Magashule's home base, the Free State province.
Magashule's court case is expected to continue in August.
Magashule, who is one of the party's top six leaders, has been prohibited under the terms of the suspension from representing the party in any forum, from speaking on its behalf, from mobilising members and from carrying out his official duties.
His suspension - along those of others facing criminal charges - is an important step in President Cyril Ramaphosa's campaign to combat corruption in the ANC.
Ramaphosa acknowledged at an official commission of inquiry into corruption last week that allegations of corruption had damaged the party at the polls.
Magashule has been an ally of former President Jacob Zuma, on whose watch corruption became widespread in state-owned enterprises and government departments with large infrastructure budgets.
A spokesman for the party's Veterans' League, Snuki Zikalala, welcomed the suspensions.
"We can't go and loot and be involved in mass corruption and think that it's the right thing to do," he told the public broadcaster.
"We can't allow people to loot with impunity. This is not directed at the secretary-general at all, it is directed at all members of the African National Congress who are... facing criminal charges."
This report has been updated and expanded since first published.