South Africa


Mahikeng Burning: NW Premier Supra Mahumapelo on the defensive as calls for his resignation intensify

Mahikeng Burning: NW Premier Supra Mahumapelo on the defensive as calls for his resignation intensify
North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo at the ANC’s elective conference held in December 2017. Photo: Leila Dougan

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo on Thursday acted on corruption allegations against some within his government, but his options to save himself are becoming increasingly limited as Mahikeng burns and the ANC recalibrates.

Before the results of the election of the ANC’s Top Six were announced in December 2017, Free State chair and secretary-general candidate Ace Magashule confidently walked the conference floor. He stopped at the North West delegation to speak to the provincial chair, Supra Mahumapelo. The North West premier joked with photographers. The pair then went to speak to the ANC’s Mpumalanga leader, David Mabuza.

Magashule was elected ANC Secretary-General and Mabuza deputy president, but the Top Six was split between those who supported Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency and then-president Jacob Zuma and his chosen successor, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. In supporting Ramaphosa, Mabuza disrupted the “Premier League” clique that backed Zuma and exposed Mahumapelo’s vulnerabilities.

Mahumapelo now faces unprecedented levels of criticism, which he was protected from during Zuma’s reign, propped up by the now-defunct Premier League. The ANC finds itself stuck between Ramaphosa’s new dawn and Zuma’s sunset.

Mahikeng came to a standstill this week after protesters took to the streets calling for the North West premier’s resignation or removal. The demonstrations follow reports that Mahumapelo’s son received a dodgy bursary worth R1-million from state-owned arms company Denel (Denel said the bursary was awarded according to due process while Mahumapelo said he’ll pay back the money if need be).

Late on Thursday, the ANC said Ramaphosa will attend an “urgent” meeting with the party’s North West structures on Friday. Fresh from a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London, Ramaphosa will be accompanied by deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and Magashule.

On Tuesday, an EFF-led motion of no confidence in the premier was postponed as the Fighters approached the court for an urgent interdict for the vote to be held by secret ballot.

Alliance partners in the province, Cosatu, Sanco, the SACP and ANCYL believe Mahumapelo must go. The North West ANC is divided and despite ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte’s denial, the EFF stands a chance of winning support from ANC members if the vote is secret.

Members of the ANC’s national working committee visited North West on Wednesday to resolve the impasse. Apart from repeating claims that party members would never vote against their own in a motion of no confidence, little appears to have been resolved.

ANC integrity commission chair Andrew Mlangeni has called for Mahumapelo to be held accountable for alleged corruption allegations benefiting the Gupta family.

It is a disturbing issue. It means some of our leaders were captured by Guptas. And we know what damage the Guptas have done to our country. That is not what the ANC stands for,” he was quoted as saying.

The premier, elected in 2014, and his spokesperson Brian Setswambung have been forced to respond. Criss-crossing media outlets, they have denounced the violent protests and claimed Mahumapelo is being targeted for supporting Dlamini Zuma in December. They’ve called for dialogue and denounced criminal elements involved in looting and burning property.

Pressure is mounting. Mahumapelo reportedly suspended the director of his health department, Andrew Thabo Lekalakala, on Thursday. Lekalakala and Mahumapelo came under fire after Gupta-linked healthcare company Mediosa was paid R30-million before providing any of the promised mobile clinic services, without putting out a tender. The health department was also investigated for diverting R36-million from its HIV/Aids grant to pay private ambulance companies with questionable contracts.

North West’s health system is broken. Unions have been on a go-slow, calling for the premier’s removal, and services have been further hampered by the protests. The department is even looking to the SANDF to provide medical care. The Stop Stockouts Project (SSP) has said 394 clincs are unable to provide essential medicines to patients. SSP is working with the national health department to provide medicines directly to the clinics.

DA North West leader Joe McGluwa has written to Ramaphosa requesting Mahumapelo’s recall.

We explained the suffering of communities and the total chaos in which the province is currently in. Supra has lost control of the province and the trust of the people,” he said on Thursday.

The premier still has the upper hand. His vulnerability was exposed after the ANC conference, but he probably still enjoys the support of Magashule, who is also under pressure for corruption allegations during his leadership of the Free State.

The protests and internal opposition within the movement could force Ramaphosa to act against the premier, but the president has so far been careful about how he dismantles Zuma’s support structure. Ramaphosa inherited a divided ANC and acting too soon could lead to further separation.

Waiting too long to act against Mahumapelo, however, could hurt the ANC’s chances in the 2019 elections. The party dominated the 2016 local government elections in North West but saw a significant decline in support in the province.

Mahikeng residents are frustrated by the protests and Mahumapelo’s defiance.

This is such a shame and a sad occurence in Mahikeng. I have never seen my people this furious ever,” 28-year-old Oratile Segodi from Unit 9 told Daily Maverick.

Supra has done no good to us and before things get ugly, can he just honour our wishes and step down? I mean, how does he sleep at night knowing that there is no form of productivity happening in Mahikeng. Children cannot go to school, parents cannot go to work.”

North West University student Tiisetso Legapu, 27, said Mahumapelo and the ANC’s failure to listen to residents’ concerns exposed the ruling party’s hypocrisy.

This is when you get to see how selfish politicians are. He doesn’t care what is happening because he could have at least been home, so it shows that these people are hypocrites,” he said.

It is supposed to be ‘ANC for the people and by the people’, but when the people raise their dissatisfaction then it is someone trying to kick them out.”

Protest leaders will hold a meeting on Friday at Mmabatho Stadium and will then stage a march demanding that Mahumapelo resign.

Mahumapelo’s old allies Magashule and Duarte still defend the embattled premier, but it appears other ANC leaders are reluctant to stand up for him.

As Ramaphosa takes a back seat, Mahumapelo’s opposition within the movement and residents tired of receiving poor healthcare services will take control.

The premier’s opposition is on the warpath. His allies are conflicted and distracted. The Premier League is no more and Mahumapelo is exposed. DM


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