South Africa, Politics

Themba Mthembu’s Getting Harried Tonight: Surprise SACP pick weighs key KZN job offer

By Cyril Madlala 6 June 2016

The long-awaited purge of KwaZulu-Natal government leaders who supported axed premier Senzo Mchunu finally happened yesterday, but the unfolding drama has plunged the provincial South African Communist Party into a deep moral dilemma. By CYRIL MADLALA.

SACP KZN Secretary Themba Mthembu, a fierce critic of the ANC’s handling of former premier Senzo Mchunu’s axing, has been appointed to new premier Willies Mchunu’s reshuffled executive council, in a deft move that would have caught the communists completely off guard.

He has been engaged in several media spats with the ANC Youth League, not only over the former premier’s removal, but also about the ANC’s nomination process for candidates in the August 3 local government elections.

Many parts of the province are in flames as aggrieved communities complain that the ANC is imposing its own candidates, while the SACP has cited lack of proper consultation with alliance partners as being among the reasons for the violence.

As a leader with a long history within the SACP and the labour movement in the province, new premier Willies Mchunu seemed to have alienated himself from these alliance partners when he joined forces with Sihle Zikalala to oust Senzo Mchunu as provincial chairman of the ANC in November.

Since that elective conference, the youth league has been calling for the injection of new blood in government, going to the extent of announcing through the media who should be appointed.

Indeed, when the new cabinet was announced there was only one surprise name: Themba Mthembu’s, for agriculture and rural development.

As expected, Zikalala takes over economic development, tourism and environmental affairs from Michael Mabuyakhulu. Mxolisi Kaunda assumes Willies Mchunu’s former role in transport, community safety and liaison; Mthandeni Dlungwane replaces Peggy Nkonyeni in education while Bongi Sithole-Moloi is the new political head at arts, culture, sports and recreation where Ntombi Sibhidla-Saphetha has been axed.

Mthembu’s name could never have been on the youth league’s agenda. The dislike for each other seems mutual.

The ANC denies that Mthembu’s inclusion is part of an effort to placate the communists in the face of a relationship that that has gone very sour.

The government is not in the business of “appeasement”, the premier assured the media when making the announcement.

Mthembu had been appointed because of his experience as chairman of the legislature portfolio committee for the department he is earmarked for, Mchunu said.

Under normal circumstances, that would indeed have been the usual career path for anyone becoming a member of the executive council.

However, Mthembu, on behalf of his party, has been so vehemently critical of the manner in which Senzo Mchunu has been treated that it would be difficult to see him in cahoots with the former premier’s perceived persecutors.

Could he comfortably now be part of what he has all along considered a flawed process?

The ANC will remind him that even in the legislature he is deployed in his capacity as an ANC member, not as provincial secretary of the SACP. The ANC is therefore at liberty to give him any task.

He has asked the ANC to give him 24 hours to consider the new deployment while he consults within his party.

That means another chapter of this drama may still unfold if he declines the offer today, depending on the pointer on his and fellow communists’ moral compass. DM

Photo: SACP KZN Secretary Themba Mthembu (Photo by Independent Media)

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