In his first briefing as ANC secretary-general at the party's headquarters, Ace Magashule said a whole lot of nothing, dodging questions about President Jacob Zuma and his role in the Estina dairy project.
Magashule was briefing the media on Monday after the party's NEC lekgotla at the weekend.
After speaking at length about the NEC's agreement on the party's policies around economic recovery, transformation, free higher education and land redistribution, Magashule spent less than a minute on Zuma, before the floor opened for questions.
Thanks Doctor Magashule. Right:— Pieter Du Toit (@PieterDuToit) January 22, 2018
1. Were you aware of the Estina Dairy Project? (Just for the record)
2. Were you aware of the money that was channeled to the Guptas? (For the record)
3. Will you resign as premier and as ANC leader given the gravity of the allegations? Why not?
"Indeed, the officials were seized with this matter and they will remain seized with this matter," he said. "There will be continuous interaction between [ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa] and Zuma, and this was discussed in the NEC. The matter was still left with the officials, because it is a matter of interaction. They are talking about the coordination of Luthuli house and the Union Buildings."
"There was no decision to remove Zuma," he said in response to another question.
During an NEC meeting on Friday, a motion to discuss Zuma's removal was brought by newly elected member David Masondo, was backed by deputy minister of agriculture Bheki Cele.
Sources told HuffPost that a committee has now been set up to facilitate the "speedy transition" of Zuma's stepping down. The source said there was little resistance from the NEC on the matter, including from Zuma sympathisers.
Journalists asked Magashule to be more specific, and probed him about his role in the Estina dairy project and his relationship with the Gupta family.
Before he could respond, ANC spokesperson Khusela Diko grabbed the mic and said: "This is an ANC briefing; we are not necessarily dealing with matters of the Free State and [Magashule] is not here in his capacity as premier of the Free State".
Magashule eventually responded.
Regarding Zuma, he mostly repeated his previous statement.
"The NEC discussed this matter and we agreed that this matter is with the officials," he said.
Regarding the Guptas and Estina, he went on the defensive
"No person is guilty until proven otherwise. We are saying wherever there is corruption, the law must take its place [sic], whether it's in Vrede or any other place," he said.
"My son has been working for the Guptas. It has never been a secret. It was not a secret. You knew as the media and my son was not involved in the Vrede dairy."
The Gupta leaks revealed that Magashule's son, Tshepiso, started working for the Guptas as a consultant in November 2010, a year after Magashule became premier.
Tshepiso allegedly acted as an intermediary between the Guptas and the Free State government, using Gupta money to pay airtime bills, for example – allegedly in exchange for using government officials to further the Gupta agenda in the province.