The ANC backed President Cyril Ramaphosa after he ordered those facing graft charges to step down.
The party said members who face corruption charges should resign from leadership positions until their cases are finalised, in a strong endorsement for Ramaphosa.
The decision, reached after a weekend meeting of its top decision-making body, is seen as a blow for former president Jacob Zuma.
Zuma had attacked his successor Ramaphosa, calling him a white stooge for saying the ANC was now riddled with corruption.
In a statement read by Ramaphosa, the party said it “endorsed” the president’s views as a “clear articulation” of the ANC’s position.
Ramaphosa had last week said the ANC must face the “stark reality” that it is the “accused number one” for corruption.
Zuma responded, saying Ramaphosa’s comments were “fundamentally flawed”, “insulting” and a bid to please the country’s white minority.
The ANC said the seemingly “choreographed campaign against the president will not distract the movement from undertaking and intensifying” its fight against corruption.
“The ANC needs to draw a line in the sand between the organisation and those who steal from the people,” said the party, in a statement read out by Ramaphosa.
Several ANC members are being investigated for corruption involving the procurement of coronavirus supplies in the continent’s worst-hit country. Others face cases dating back pre-pandemic years.
The meeting agreed that ANC members “who are formally charged for corruption or other serious crimes must immediately step aside from all leadership positions in the ANC, legislatures or other government structures pending the finalisation of their cases”.
Analysts said the ANC’s backing support showed that Ramaphosa was asserting his authority in a party rent by factional battles.
“The president of the ANC finally showed up,” said Mcebisi Ndletyana, political scientist at the University of Johannesburg.
“He is trying to mould the ANC into what exactly he had promised when he took over the presidency,” Ndletyana told AFP.
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