The ANC was criticised in December for electing only one woman to its Top Six officials. On Wednesday the party announced two female premiers-elect, in Free State and Mpumalanga. The opposition says the ANC made poor choices, while the appointments once again highlight the party’s problems in the provinces. By GREG NICOLSON.
During a post-national working committee (NWC) briefing, ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule announced that Refilwe Mtshweni had been appointed premier-elect in Mpumalanga and Sisi Ntombela premier-elect in the Free State.
Their nominations follow former Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza’s appointment as deputy president and Magashule’s election as secretary-general, a position that requires him to resign as Free State premier to work full-time at Luthuli House.
“The NWC believes that the two women nominated as premiers-elect will take forward the agenda of radical socio-economic transformation,” said Magashule.
“The nomination of the premiers-elect demonstrates that the ANC is a true non-sexist organisation and continues to recognise the existing leadership capacity of the women within our organisation.”
The ANC was criticised during its Nasrec conference in December for electing only one woman, Jessie Duarte, who held her position as deputy secretary-general, in the party’s Top Six posts. The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) had called it “an attack on the gains of women’s struggles”.
After Mtshweni and Ntombela are officially elected by their legislatures, four out of nine provinces will have female premiers. The ANC’s Sylvia Lucas continues to lead Northern Cape, despite losing her position in the party’s provincial leadership last year. The DA’s former leader Hellen Zille leads the Western Cape.
“I’m promising that I’ll do the best. I can steer the ship in the right direction,” said Mtshweni at the media briefing on Wednesday.
She has served as acting premier since Mabuza resigned in February, although her appointment to the acting post was initially bungled by the ANC.
“We call on all political parties to support a woman premier,” said Magashule.
Ntombela said, “I know it’s not going to be easy just because I’m a woman and I know that it’s going to be a little bit tough, but I’ll try my best.”
Ntombela serves as Free State’s co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC and is also ANCWL deputy president.
Mtshweni was co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC in Mpumalanga before she became acting premier.
DA Free State leader Roy Jankielsohn said Ntombela was a poor choice and would further corruption in the province.
“The only reasons for Ntombela’s nomination for premier is that she happens to be the deputy president of the ANC’s Women’s League and that she is a close confidante of Ace Magashule. Under Ntombela’s premiership the people can expect a worsening in the delivery of services, poorly executed government programmes and greater unemployment,” he said.
Free State municipalities had collapsed while Ntombela was co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC, with councils owing billions in electricity and water bills, Jankielsohn claimed, adding that she missed targets to build new houses and provide title deeds.
“She will ensure that the corrupt entrenched patronage network Magashule spent years building remains quite intact to continue the looting,” said Jankielsohn.
DA Mpumalanga leader Jane Sithole claimed on Wednesday morning that Mtshweni was linked to a guest house operating in Witbank that might be stealing electricity. Mtsweni’s address on the voters roll matched that of the guest house, she said. Sithole said no electricity had been bought this year for the 17-room guest house and claimed Mtshweni might be contributing to eMalahleni’s R1.6-billion Eskom debt.
She said she had hoped the province would get a more credible leader after the “dark days” of former premier Mabuza, but said it appears corruption in the ANC is deep-rooted.
“The people of Mpumalanga must brace themselves for, if not worse service delivery, more of the same.”
EFF leaders in Free State and Mpumalanga could either not be reached or did not respond to requests to comment before publishing.
The ANC’s appointment of the premiers-elect comes as divisions in some provinces continue. Sello Dithebe, one of the ANC members who has led the fight against Magashule’s allies in the Free State, rejected Ntombela’s appointment.
The party appointed a provincial task team to lead the province after the courts nullified the Free State’s elective conference in December.
The task team suggested three names for premier, including Ntombela. Dithebe said the task team was not balanced and continued to serve Magashule’s agenda.
The secretary-general said on Wednesday that after the two groups in Free State met with national leaders last week, six more members were added to the task team. He said the process was fair and the party would take action against unruly members causing division.
“We are going to start to be very serious about it we no longer want factions, groupings.”
Dithebe claimed that only two members of the six added to the task team came from their suggestions.
The group is seen as aligning to former deputy provincial chair Thabo Manyoni in the race to be the party’s next Free State leader.
“We think that this further undermines renewal efforts in the aftermath of Nasrec,” said Manyoni.
He said the provincial conference set for this weekend had been postponed by a week, but claimed that the same delegates who went to the illegal December conference are due to attend the repeat.
“Our secretary-general is hell-bent on insuring that there is a predetermined outcome of the conference and we are wondering what on earth out leaders are thinking,” said Manyoni, referring to Magashule’s colleagues in the Top Six.
The disgruntled Free State group are considering going to court again to interdict or nullify the provincial conference if extensive branch audits aren’t conducted.
Free State isn’t the ANC’s only provincial headache. Eleven members from the Eastern Cape have filed papers at the Constitutional Court seeking to overturn the result of the October provincial conference where Oscar Mabuyane won the position of chairperson from Phumulo Masualle.
Magashule said ANC leaders would speak to members in the Eastern Cape and advise them to instead use the party’s national dispute resolution committee.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC still has to elect leaders after its 2015 conference was ruled unlawful.
Mpumalanga members will soon need to elect a new chairperson to replace Mabuza. DM
Photo: Free State premier-elect Sisi Ntombela and Mpumalanga premier-elect Refilwe Mtshweni at Luthuli House as their appointments are made public. (Greg Nicolson)
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