KwaZulu-Natal’s new ANC cabinet is old wine in new bottles, say critics
The newly installed premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, has moved quickly to stamp her authority on the provincial cabinet. Perhaps surprisingly, she has retained former premier Sihle Zikalala in her administration, while also accommodating her new political boss, ANC provincial chair Siboniso Duma.
The changes in KwaZulu-Natal’s political administration have received a mixed reaction from political pundits, opposition parties and other stakeholders.
Nomusa Dube-Ncube was installed as the province’s first woman premier on Wednesday in a special sitting of the legislature in Mooi River. This followed Sihle Zikalala’s resignation of the premiership last Friday. Zikalala said one of the reasons he was stepping down was because he wanted to give the new ANC provincial leadership the space to implement its policies.
Within 24 hours of her inauguration, Dube-Ncube announced that Zikalala would be KZN’s new MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), while Siboniso Duma (the newly elected ANC provincial chairperson) would resume his duties as the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. Duma will also assume the position of Leader of Government Business.
Peggy Nkonyeni, former MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, becomes the new MEC for Finance.
Sipho Hlomuka, the newly elected KZN ANC deputy secretary who served as the MEC for Cogta in Sihle Zikalala’s administration, will take over as the MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison. Nomagugu-Simelane Zulu, the newly elected KZN ANC provincial deputy leader who served as the MEC for Health, retained her position.
Also retaining their positions are MEC for Social Development, Nonhlanhla Khoza, and Bongi Sithole-Moloi, the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development.
The newcomers include the newly elected KZN ANC Treasurer and former Newcastle mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba, who takes over as MEC for Human Settlement and Public Works. Mbali Frazier takes over as MEC for Education and Amanda Mapena as MEC for Sports, Arts and Culture.
The reshuffle comes in the wake of the resignation of a number of MECs who were asked to make way for the new deployees. These include Ravi Pillay, the former MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. Former Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu also resigned, as did Jomo Sibiya, the former MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works.
Both Mshengu and Sibiya were defeated in their bid for leadership positions at the recent KZN ANC conference.
Development and jobs
Dube-Ncube said her cabinet would hit the ground running in dealing with the challenges facing the province, and would prioritise economic development and job creation.
“We assume our responsibilities fully aware that this country and the province in particular is facing economic challenges. Judging from all the commentary in the public media and in the social media outlets, but more so the suffering and palpable poverty in communities, job creation has to be a matter of concern to each and every South African.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
“Rebuilding the economy and creating decent jobs in the formal and informal economies is the top priority for the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government,” Dube-Ncube said, adding that her government would work with other social partners and leaders from all sectors to develop the province to its full potential.
The IFP, the official opposition in KZN, said that while it welcomed the new leadership, it was concerned about the calibre of the people who occupy the new positions. It described the changes as more of a “Taliban (the ANC faction in charge of KZN) takeover” than changes made by Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
Velenkosini Hlabisa, the IFP president who also serves in the KZN legislature, said: “Only time will tell how long this compromised executive, comprised of those rejected by conference and its victors, work together.
“The premier will have to do a double-duty: during the day she is the premier, presiding over MECs who are PEC members… after work, subject herself and account to those very same MECs in the PEC.
“The IFP notes that while the contents of the brand may have changed, the brand remains the same, and the new contents comes from the same failed product,” said Hlabisa, adding that his party was looking forward to the 2024 general elections.
Francois Rodgers, DA KZN leader, said that while his party would work with the new provincial government, it was concerned about some of the individuals appointed. He said Nkonyeni still had the “Amigos” corruption allegations hanging over her, while Ntuthuko Mahlaba had allegations against him.
Rodgers said his party would be keeping the new MECs on their toes.
‘The Taliban has spoken’
“The Taliban has spoken. It is now taking over and running the province. At the end of day, we will work with any MEC that puts the people’s interests first. We have proven this in the past when we had a very good working relationship with many ANC MECs.
“But those particular MECs who are only in the position for power, we will expose them and show their weaknesses and inefficiencies.”
Zakhele Ndlovu, a political science lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the changes reflected the new balance of power in the province in favour of the Taliban faction.
“Obviously, Dube-Ncube is warming the seat for Duma after 2024 if the ANC wins the province. But… what criteria is used to deploy people into those positions? Do they have the expertise to run those departments? What expertise, for example, does Nkonyeni have to run the finance department? Was Sihle Zikalala removed because he was incompetent as the premier, and is he being moved to Cogta because that is where his expertise is?
‘No real change’
“The way I see it, the ANC want people to think they are making changes to improve things simply because change is associated with improvement. But I doubt whether the KZN electorate will buy it. There is nothing that the new cabinet will change.
“These people will continue where their predecessors left off, in terms of implementing ANC policies. The only thing that has changed are the faces. I don’t think this will change people’s lives and galvanise the electorate to go out and vote for the ANC.”
Xolani Dube, an independent political analyst with the Xubera Institute for Development and Research, agreed, saying that many of the new faces in the cabinet have been part and parcel of the ANC’s KZN leadership for a long time.
“Their records do not give us confidence that they can achieve anything. Many of them have been shuffled around. The ANC is confusing its constituency through this paradox.
“To say Dube-Ncube is not fit enough to lead the ANC in the province… but is fit enough to lead the provincial government, is a paradox. Also, why Duma is not ascending to the highest position, only time will tell,” Dube said. DM