First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

The Premier League, Next Generation – ANC plays it sa...

South Africa


The Premier League, Next Generation – ANC plays it safe

The ANC left nothing to rumour as it unceremoniously announced the premier candidates for seven of the eight provinces where it will be governing in the next five years. There were no surprises, not even the omission of a candidate’s name for the troubled North West.

It was a fairly safe and predictable list of names that emerged from the ANC’s national executive committee meeting in the St George’s Hotel in Irene, near Pretoria, on Monday. The party mostly stuck to its preference of appointing provincial chairpersons as premiers — at least in the provinces where these exist.

In the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane — who was elected provincial chairperson in October 2017 — will replace Phumulo Masualle, in Gauteng David Makhura remains, in Limpopo Stan Mathabatha stays on, in KwaZulu-Natal it will be Sihle Zikalala, who has acted many times for sickly Willies Mchunu, whom he is replacing, and in the Northern Cape Zamani Saul, who was elected provincial chairperson in May 2017, will replace Sylvia Lucas.

Female premiers were retained in the Free State (ANC Women’s League deputy president Sisi Ntombela, who is said to be an ally of her predecessor, now ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule) and Mpumalanga (Refilwe Mtsweni), two provinces where the ANC has not yet managed to convene an elective conference to replace the leaders who left for national positions after the December 2017 Nasrec conference.

In the North West, which is at present being administered by a provincial task team, there was talk of appointing a woman too, but according to the statement issued on Monday night by the ANC’s national executive committee, the premier candidate “will be announced in due course following internal engagements”.

There was a proposal that current premier Job Mokgoro should continue to act until the party in the province has its elective conference in September, but this was rejected by structures. Mokgoro replaced former premier Supra Mahumapelo in 2018. The ANC’s provincial leadership was disbanded and the provincial government put under administration.

Some now believe the ANC here will go to a provincial conference in September, while a member of the provincial task team said a conference could not happen before the structures were “cleaned up” and strengthened. There is a dispute over whether this task team, headed by ministers Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and Obed Bapela, who are not from the province, could have any say over who the premier should be. Other names put forward for the position were local government MEC Motlalepula Ziphora Rosho and the ANC’s head of elections in the province, Saliva Molapisi.

North West was identified as a potential hotspot for violence on election day due to infighting within the ANC, which is riddled with problems such as parallel branches in the province — something detractors blame Mahumapelo for. The process of convening members for an elective conference could take more than just a few months.

There was no mention about any decision on who would be the party’s caucus head in the Western Cape, which is likely to see the DA’s Alan Winde become premier. Party campaigners were left depressed and frustrated after a further drop in the ANC’s support in this province — to below 30%. Former premier Ebrahim Rasool played a prominent role in the elections campaign, but it is unlikely that he will be returning to the legislature as an ordinary member.

In provinces with male premiers, at least 60% of the MECs must be women, while in the provinces with female premiers, the balance should be at least 50-50, according to the ANC national executive committee statement. Speakers in all the provinces will be women, while there should also be young people, the statement read.

The NEC took into consideration a number of “principles and approaches”, which include gender parity, unity and stability in ANC structures, youth and inter-generational mix, experience and integrity, the statement read. The party has, since 2007, preferred to appoint its provincial chairpersons as premiers to promote unity and to avoid “two centres of power”, where the premier is handpicked by the president, but the ANC in the province is run by someone else.

This was one of the issues that caused Thabo Mbeki to face resistance, although under his leadership there was near gender parity among the party’s premiers, and some believed this prevented strongmen from exploiting government resources to establish patronage networks in provinces.

Legislatures are set to convene from next week onwards to elect premiers, with Parliament following the same route. The presidential inauguration is, for now, set for May 25.

Even though Magashule told reporters at a brief doorstop earlier in the day that the discussion of premier candidates was the only item on the agenda of the NEC meeting, there is some indication from sources that parliamentary candidates were discussed too. President Cyril Ramaphosa promised before the elections that candidates of questionable ethics would be removed from the list after a consultation process with the party’s integrity commission.

The NEC meeting was, however, not only interesting for what was discussed, but also for who was attending. Former president Jacob Zuma was also at St George’s Hotel, looking jolly and joking with NEC members, while Ramaphosa, on stage, looked somewhat worn down, possibly still as a result of his gruelling campaign schedule in the past few weeks (after which the ANC’s support dropped below 60% for the first time since 1994).

Zuma has become the only ex-ANC president who still faithfully attends party events, and although some say he comes there to sleep, his presence quite correctly signifies the fact that he is still very much present in the day-to-day workings of a very divided ANC. DM


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted