Supra Mahumapelo announced his resignation on Wednesday in the same way he governed the North West. Speaking at Luthuli House alongside his former Premier League allies Ace Magashule and Jessie Duarte, he was self-indulgent, defiant, and a touch delusional.
He began by launching into a sort of state of the province address. During his four years as North West premier, the province has ensured that 89% of citizens have access to clean drinking water, 92% have electricity connections, and the bucket system has been eradicated.
“In most cases, you, ladies and gentleman, don’t look at the glass being half full. When you look at the glass you see the glass being half empty,” he told reporters. Unlike health services in the North West, Mahumapelo’s glass isn’t yet empty.
Supra was the most vulnerable of the premiers who participated in former president Jacob Zuma’s campaign to hollow out the state. That much was exposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as ANC and then the country’s President.
In April, protesters shut down Mahikeng and much of the North West as allegations of corruption and service delivery failures centred on the premier. Mahumapelo announced he would resign, then backtracked and took a leave of absence, but his attempt to hold on to the reins of government was thwarted when Ramaphosa’s Cabinet placed the entire North West government under administration.
“There are two reasons why I’m going on early retirement,” said the former premier, outlining his conditions for “voluntarily” stepping aside after heavy pressure within the ANC.
Mahumapelo and his allies in the provincial executive committee (PEC) claimed opponents wanted him gone after he proposed investigating corruption in former North West administrations. He also alleged Zuma supporters were being purged by the new ANC administration.
“The first reason is to say all these investigations that are supposed to take place in the province and are taking place, if they take place in my presence there will be an accusation that I’m using the office also to protect myself because those investigations have to continue and I’m also accused along the process,” he said.
The second reason was that the ANC had agreed to deal with those who stood against him and demanded his removal. Or in Supra-speak, “Counter-revolution, when it rests its head, revolutionaries must rise to the occasion and attend and thwart the counter-revolution.” He called for the weight of the ANC to act on the counter-revolutionaries.
A better reason might be that his administration is so inept that the national government had to take over every department. Or the litany of corruption allegations against him and his executive. Or perhaps the Auditor General’s findings that Mahumapelo had shown no willingness to deal with the downward spiral in North West governance.
“Comrade Supra is today resigning as premier in North West and I think he’s actually assisting the ANC to deal with all challenges we are supposed to deal with so he doesn’t become an obstacle to solving problems,” said ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule. He called the “voluntary” resignation “a great thing to do as a leader”.
This isn’t the worst-case scenario for the North West leader. While he resigned as premier, he remains ANC North West chairperson. Opponents wanted the PEC to be disbanded and be led by a task team, but unless the national executive committee (NEC) decides otherwise Mahumapelo and his band of allies in the province will lead the party into the 2019 elections.
Will he try to purge those who forced him to give up his crown? Duarte said the PEC was democratically elected and the party was looking at mechanisms to unite the province. Magashule said the party wouldn’t allow purges and they wouldn’t last long even if they were attempted.
Minutes after calling for the party to take on “counter-revolutionaries” Mahumapelo spoke of unity.
“We said in the PEC that it’s important to engage everybody, including those who may be extreme in as far as their actions are concerned. Those actions may have included burning government property torching things and so on but it doesn’t mean that we won’t engage them.”
The ANC didn’t reveal who would be appointed premier. Finance MEC Wendy Nelson has been acting in the position since Mahumapelo went on leave and the ANC’s NEC will probably deliberate on the issue over the weekend.
Closing his address, Mahumapelo assured citizens that he had their interests at heart.
“Lastly, ladies and gentleman, just know that Supra Obakeng Ramoeletsi Mahumapelois not a political self-preservation activist. It is the revolution that must come first and the people of South Africa. Other than that, a luta continua, the struggle continues.”
The struggle continues, but with multiple investigations into his leadership, Mahumapelo might be left behind. DM
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