North West premier wrangle a crucial indicator of Ramaphosa’s power in the ANC

By Carien Du Plessis 16 May 2019
Then Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini appears before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on March 07, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Rapport / Conrad Bornman)

The ANC has until Monday to decide who to appoint as its candidate for premier of North West. The outcome of this bunfight could be an indication of where the power lies in the party’s national executive committee.

The ANC Women’s League’s objection to the lack of gender parity among the ANC’s candidates for provincial premiers came at the last minute of the national executive committee meeting on Monday.

The party was poised to announce that it would put up six male and two female candidates to be elected as premier when legislatures convene next week, but league president Bathabile Dlamini declared this as wrong. She particularly objected to Job Mokgoro’s name, those with close knowledge of the meeting’s procedures said.

Mokgoro took over as premier when Supra Mahumapelo was removed from his position in 2018, and is supported by many as a politically unambitious figure who will bring stability to the province. The custom is for the ANC to appoint its provincial chairperson as premier, but in North West — as in Mpumalanga and the Free State — the ANC is yet to convene a conference to elect new leaders.

In Mpumalanga and North West the interim premiers are both female. Refilwe Mtsweni in Mpumalanga is considered closely aligned with former premier and provincial chairperson David Mabuza, who has stepped up to become deputy president. In the Free State, Sisi Ntombela, ANC Women’s League deputy president, is aligned with ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

At least four of the ANC’s premier nominees are, however, strongly behind Ramaphosa, and they are on a firm footing in their provinces due to being party leaders there. These are Limpopo (Stan Mathabatha), KwaZulu-Natal (Sihle Zikalala), Gauteng (David Makhura) and the Eastern Cape (Oscar Mabuyane). In North West, Mokgoro is regarded as being in the Ramaphosa camp because Mahumapelo’s sacking and Mokgoro’s appointment came after Ramaphosa became ANC president.

Mokgoro’s name topped the list submitted to the NEC of three possible premier candidates for North West. MEC for local government Motlalepula Ziphora Rosho and ANC head of elections Saliva Molapisi were also on the list, the result of a consultation between the officials and office bearers of the party’s provincial task team appointed to help “fix” the party’s broken structures in the province, as well as alliance officials and office bearers.

Those in the NEC who support Mokgoro argued that stability was needed because the provincial government was under administration.

However, the ANC Women’s League objected to this and put forward its own candidates for the job. The list includes its secretary, Meokgo Matuba, former Dr Kenneth Kaunda district municipality mayor Pinky Moloi and speaker of the legislature Susana Dantjie. It doesn’t appear to have much support in the province.

Labour federation Cosatu, the SA Communist Party, the SA National Civic Organisation and the ANC Veterans’ League wrote to the ANC’s national officials on Tuesday asking that Mokgoro be retained. In the confidential letter, which Daily Maverick has seen, leaders of these structures say Mokgoro should be retained “as originally resolved by the ANC NEC” because he has “started yielding a necessary stability in the provincial governance” (sic). They ask that the debate around gender representation be deferred and discussed nationally, as it wasn’t only a problem in North West.

As the current debate (stands), the reality is that the gender balance is not the necessity as currently the ANC NEC just appointed five male premier candidates and only two female candidates (sic),” they wrote.

On top of that, North West has done its part for gender representivity by having three female premiers in the past 25 years, they said.

As the province we are not convinced on reality that in 25 years provinces that have not provided a female premier are really not ready to be led by the female premier, and thus this current call is devoid of organisational building and cohesion but an attempt to re-introduce a divisive agenda to the province which has started signs of working towards unity and cohesion (sic).”

Madoda Sambatha, SACP provincial secretary and one of the signatories to the letter, has accused the Women’s League of playing politics disguised as gender representation. He said there was a woman on the original list who the league could have supported. Sambatha said the league was really behind Mahumapelo.

They want a female they are going to use to pull strings (in Mahumapelo’s favour),” he said.

The premier appointed now has a good chance of ending up as the provincial chairperson when the province eventually does get around to having a conference, which should take place in a few months. Sambatha said if gender representation really was the issue, the women’s league should have pushed for this nationally.

Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who heads the ANC’s provincial task team, did not comment, but it is understood that the task team was also behind Mokgoro.

The North West ANC Youth League also effectively threw its weight behind Mokgoro after a meeting on Wednesday. Provincial secretary Sipho Dial said Mokgoro should stay, but the league would also propose Viola Motsumi, its provincial treasurer and “who comes from our ranks” and who, aged 35, was young enough to appeal to the youth. The league had also considered Matuba, but Dial said she was not on the party’s election lists and she held a full-time position in the Women’s League.

When the NEC sits in Cape Town over the weekend to discuss the North West premier issue, it will hope to make a consensus decision. The week’s delay would have given both the Ramaphosa and Mahumapelo camps time to lobby and get as many people as possible behind them.

Unanimity is important for the dominant faction, because the party does not want to risk embarrassment when the legislature sits to vote for premier and find the vote split.

With 21 MPLs in the 33-seat legislature, the ANC needs only five MPLs to vote with the opposition for another candidate to derail its plans. The way the appointment of the North West premier turns out could be a good indicator of the power Ramaphosa yields within the party after the elections. DM


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