On Tuesday the ANC National Executive Committee finally swopped all the fun of speculation for the actual grind of making a proper announcement about new premiers in the eight provinces the party won. Naturally, as the biggest and most politically interesting ANC province, Gauteng won the lion’s share of attention. Step forward David Makhura: as from now on TV and radio presenters around the country are going to be adding the phrase “Gauteng Premier” in front of your name. Apart from this, the rest of the NEC’s decisions were pretty straightforward. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
Let’s start with the fun. Gauteng as a province is going to dominate political discussion for the next couple of years. Firstly, because the ANC came close to not getting a majority in the elections itself and secondly, because it’s the one provincial leadership within the ANC that took on President Jacob Zuma at Mangaung and is still standing. The other rebellion provinces’ leading teams have all disappeared into the political ether in the months following the 52nd Conference.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, there was speculation about whether the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) would impose a candidate on the province of Gauteng. The speculation was not without precedent: after the 2009 election, a Zuma-controlled NEC decided to reject three names provided by the Gauteng ANC (these were in fact only one name – as the sound byte from the Gauteng ANC went at the time – “Paul Mashatile, Paul Mashatile and Paul Mashatile”.) In the end, those three people were sent off to occupy the extraordinarily important and powerful job of Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture.
So, when the Gauteng ANC proposed three names this time round, there was no confirmation that in fact it would be one of those three people. In fact, The Star put out an edition suggesting it would be Ntombi Mekwe in one of those “Dewey Defeats Truman” headlines that is going to remind many people of the predicted famous ‘defeat’ of Harry S Truman by Thomas E Dewey in 1948 US Presidential Elections.
Considering Mekwe has not had a great track record in any of her positions, presiding over the final fall of the Gauteng Health Department that was as was then taken into political administration by Mokonyane, the omens were not good.
But in the end, the NEC has bitten the bullet and appointed Makhura. This matters for several reasons. First, the Gauteng ANC has got its way, despite gloomy claims that it’s on the verge of being disbanded as punishment for the poor election results in its province. Second, President Jacob Zuma is unlikely to have wanted Makhura as a premier. Makhura is simply too close to Mashatile and thus not someone to be trusted. Whether Zuma decided it would be more expedient to roll with the punch, or actually didn’t get his way, is too early to say. (There will be some fun stories for the ANC to deny in this weekend’s Sunday papers.)
There is one last issue on this one: What is going to happen to Mokonyane? She is unlikely to get a happy home at Sisulu House (the Gauteng ANC’s headquarters) and so will probably be accommodated at national level. Either that, or someone is going to have to create a job for her at Luthuli House.
(I must say, I hope she gets something comfortable, she’s always been accessible and generally honest in her dealings with the media. Despite a penchant for the odd Blue Light Brigade, of course.)
And now to the other provinces.
It is perhaps a measure of how the ANC is beholden to what you could call the barons of the provinces that so many of the premiers are staying on.
Ace Magashule in the Free State and David Mabuza in Mpumalanga are people who have their provinces nailed down solidly. Even Zuma would be reluctant to take them on directly because of the hold they have. So, while there may be various allegations against them, on the face of it they seem almost untouchable.
In the Northern Cape, Sylvia Lucas may have been appointed only because John Block, who is of course the provincial leader there, has corruption allegations against him that are so serious, that he simply cannot be named Premier.
The situation in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo is, of course, different. Senzo Mchunu and Stan Mathabatha are relatively new appointments so it makes complete sense for them to stay on. Mathabathe in particular is consolidating and rebuilding after the drama and disaster that was Cassel Mathale, so it’s good sense for the NEC to let him continue.
Phumulo Masualle, as the new Premier of the Eastern Cape, was also predictable. He’s the leader of the Eastern Cape ANC and Noxolo Kiviet was not what you would call a standout success. She will get to watch proceedings from her chair as the new Speaker in the province. Lucky her.
A similar situation has played out in the North West, where Supra Mahumapelo is taking over. As it appears, the North West ANC is slowly beginning to resemble a functioning political organisation for the first time in around six years, so it seems only right for him to get the post. He probably still has some serious work to do though.
Running all through the announcement at Luthuli House was the issue of gender. The ANC wants to have an equal number of male and female premiers. It has not managed that at all, as it now has only one female premier. As the conference was finishing, already people were tagging reports from it with #bringbackourgirls.
There is no simple answer. As Jessie Duarte explained, you can’t really tell a province it has to have a female premier because another province has a male one. And of course, the ANC really wants, in the main, the provincial leader to be the premier as well as this leads to more stability. As most of the provincial leaders are male, and have been elected, this problem is not an easy one to fix. But, as she put it, “as the women of the ANC we are not going to accept this. We are not”. Things that Duarte doesn’t accept have a habit of being fixed. But how this one is going to get resolved is anyone’s guess.
Of course there is one party that for the moment has a policy of ensuring that the province it runs is run by a woman. But not a provincial leader. And look at how that’s playing out at the moment… DM
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