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World News

South Africa Hawks police not aware of imminent arrest of ANC's Magashule

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African elite police unit Hawks said it was not aware of any arrest warrant for African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Ace Magashule, following media reports his arrest was imminent.

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

“The Hawks would like to categorically distance itself from the IOL (media) report regarding the so called impending arrest against Mr Ace Magashule,” Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said in a statement on WhatsApp shortly before midnight Tuesday.

The Hawks “view the report as a malicious intent to undermine the integrity of the organization”.

The Independent Media, citing sources, reported that Magashule will be arrested and charged over an alleged role in the controversial Estina dairy project in the town of Vrede in the Free-State.

The online newspaper also said Magashule confirmed to it over the phone that he was aware of the imminent arrest and that he will address media “at an appropriate time”.

The Estina dairy received public money and was meant to benefit the local community, but prosecutors say funds were illegally diverted to bank accounts of people including Atul Gupta, a wealthy businessman and friend of former President Jacob Zuma.

Magashule, who along with Gupta have denied any wrongdoing, was the premier of the Free State at the time.

His arrest would have important political repercussions, as it could lead to Magashule losing his job as ANC secretary general, a post that puts him in charge of the day-to-day running of the ruling party.

An ANC media relations officer diverted questions to the National Prosecuting Authority, whose spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The reports come after a number of high-profile arrests that have been made recently in connection to alleged corruption.

Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Michael Perry

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