As Job Mokgoro was sworn in as North West premier he said he would only fill the role until the 2019 elections. The premier committed to turning the troubled province around but both challenges and expectations abound.
Speaking in the North West legislature on Friday after his election as premier, Job Mokgoro committed to improving service delivery and tackling corruption and poor leadership. The premier acknowledged the challenges that saw protesters shut down Mahikeng and much of North West in April.
“Our immediate past, if not the current time, is characterised by mistrust, scepticism, anger and disappointment on the part of communities that we serve for various reasons that I shall not go into, said Mokgoro after he was sworn in by the province’s judge president. “We have made mistakes in some areas and we need to learn from these as we go forward.”
The April protests centred around removing former premier Supra Mahumapelo, but Mokgoro has inherited Mahumapelo’s administration and will struggle to tackle the issues that for years have fuelled the fire of community anger, including unemployment, corruption, poor service delivery and weak leadership.
“The events of the recent past have seen many of us, especially the public service, loitering, not showing up for work at all. Let me remind all concerned, the party is over,” said Mokgoro to applause in the legislature. He said he would only lead until the 2019 elections before he returned to academia and teaching.
The ANC appointed Mokgoro to resolve the party’s factional battles within the province and to start to improve governance ahead of the elections. In his effort to clean up North West there’s no shortage of challenges, while expectations from residents are high.
There was a feeling of renewed hope in the North West capital after the ANC announced Mokgoro’s appointment, but residents doubted whether he could turn the system around.
“Job is well educated. We are not disputing that but I do not think he will meet the high expectations people have,” said Zakes Mogokonyane, a Mahikeng resident from Stumo Park.
The national government placed all of the provincial government’s departments under administration after the April protests. Briefing Parliament last week on efforts to tackle the crisis in the province, department of planning, monitoring and evaluation director general Mpumi Mpofu said the premier’s office had failed to provide effective oversight, leading to irregular expenditure in North West jumping from R8.6 billion in 2013/14 to R15 billion last year.
The auditor general has hammered the premier’s office for failing to provide leadership. Not a single municipality received a clean audit last year, with 12 of its 22 municipalities regarded as dysfunctional or in financial distress.
Freek Bouwer, from Mahikeng’s Extension 38, knew Mokgoro from 1994 when the premier worked on the formation on the provincial administration during the transition to democracy. He acknowledged that Mokgoro has strong administrative skills and believed he has the ability to do a good job in governing the North West province.
“He should try to get the best mayors to run municipalities in North West as there is a lot of corruption there,” said Bouwer. “One advice to Mokgoro is that he should stay away from having hispeople like the previous premier did.”
Corruption is reportedly rife in North West and the former premier’s office was raided by the Hawks in May regarding an investigation into over R200 million paid to an IT service provider. Health services have been crippled in the province due the department’s poor handling of a workers’ strike and reported cases of corruption in the sector, including a R30 million payment to a company linked to the Gupta family before it had done any work.
According to the South African Social Attitudes Survey, North West residents have consistentlylost faith in government. Only 18 percent had trust in local government in 2017, down from 56 percent in 1998. Only 14 percent said they were satisfied with the way democracy was working, down from 67 percent in 2005.
Mogomotsi Mogotsi-Kgaje, from Majemantsho in Mahikeng, said young people’s concerns were particularly acute. “Most of our youth struggle to get jobs after an internship programme and are told they cannot apply for another internship if they have enrolled in one before. So how does this tackle the unemployment issue in the North West?” said Mogotsi-Kgaje. He pleaded for Mokgoro to tackle youth unemployment in the province.
September Mothibi, 38, lives in a village called Setlopo in Mahikeng with her mother, uncle and her three children. She has never had a decent job and is also a single parent.
“Some people do not know what poverty is if you never go to sleep not knowing where you’re going to get money to make everyday means. Then you do not know what poverty is,” said Mothibi.
“I have lived here for more than three decades and nothing has changed. People get RDP houses and here we do not get anything. It always feels like our government has forgotten us. You see people protesting for new roads but nothing happens,”
The plethora of concerns about governance in North West led to the protests in April and Mokgoro will have his hands full in trying to make inroads in addressing them. The appointment of a civil servant and academic was widely welcomed, but he will only have months to make improve the provincial administration before he returns to teaching.
The EFF slammed the ruling party for appointing Mokgoro, who is not a leading official in provincial ANC structures. “The ANC is unashamedly recycling leadership, even using a pensioner to take on such a vital and demanding position that requires someone with youthful vigour,” said spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlosi in a statement.
“This appointment by the new dawn confirms what we have been saying as the EFF, that the ANC has no one who has the capacity and is corrupt-free to take up important political office and duties in the government institutions.”
Mokgoro might have the capacity, but the challenges could be too many to tackle in the months he is on the job. DM
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