ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule handed himself over to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) in Bloemfontein after a warrant of arrest was issued for him on corruption charges, the National Prosecuting Authority said on Friday.
NPA spokesman Sipho Ngwema said Magashule presented himself considerably earlier than 10am, the time agreed with his lawyers.
This meant that his court appearance could start ahead of the scheduled time of 11am.
He would be taken from the Hawks’s offices to the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court, Ngwema said.
Magashule is the most senior politician to be arrested since late September, when the Hawks and the NPA began bringing corruption charges against a slew of officials and politically connected businessmen.
He will be charged with corruption in relation to a suspect R255 million asbestos audit contract inked while he served as premier of the Free State in 2014.
Seven others, including prominent businessman Edwin Sodi, have been indicted but their trial has been postponed until February next year, to allow the NPA to charge Magashule and potentially others.
Supporters of Magashule were out early in the streets of Bloemfontein, though authorities had closed President Brand Street and St George’s Street near the magistrate’s court at midnight.
Video footage showed that some were wearing ANC regalia, apparently ignoring a plea by the governing party’s top six leaders — which they said Magashule had endorsed — not to turn the case into a partisan spectacle.