South Africa


KZN premiership one of the hottest seats around, as Nomusa Dube-Ncube is soon to find out

KZN premiership one of the hottest seats around, as Nomusa Dube-Ncube is soon to find out
New KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Celebrations for the election of the first woman premier of KwaZulu-Natal could distract from the realities of occupying a position that comes with a long history of betrayal, backstabbing and petty jealousies.

In terms of Section 125 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the executive authority of KwaZulu-Natal would be vested in the newly elected Nomusa Dube-Ncube. Importantly, bestowed upon her is the power to constitute her political team and also fire members of the executive council. 

But that will not happen with Dube-Ncube — and it has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman.

She has been elevated to the top job as a temporary measure until the next provincial government election, and in terms of the Constitution, when a person is elected to fill a vacancy in the Office of the Premier, the period between that election and the next election of a premier is not regarded as a term.

Women in general, and those of the ANC Women’s League in particular, have argued over many years that it was long overdue for KwaZulu-Natal to have a female premier, as already more than a dozen women had led other provinces since the dawn of freedom. Besides, both Dube-Ncube and Peggy Nkonyeni were much more experienced in governance than former premier Sihle Zikalala, having served in various portfolios previously.

Most tellingly, during the election for the ANC’s additional provincial executive committee members, it was Nkonyeni who came out tops with 1,215 votes, followed by Dube-Ncube (1,118). They carry significant political clout in their own profiles.

Yet, both were rejected by delegates for the chairmanship post, which would have signalled that KwaZulu-Natal was ready to embrace female leadership. 

A sop to the female brigade

Now, Dube-Ncube has been given the top provincial government job almost as a sop to the female brigade to steer an ANC government ship that, by most predictions, is firmly headed towards very stormy waters in the 2024 election. 

Zikalala clearly thought he had done a decent job as premier and provincial chair, a self-assessment that obviously was at odds with how the membership viewed his performance — they humiliated him at the conference, singing that he should pack up and go. 

Understanding how slowly the wheels of government turn, how realistic is the expectation that within the remaining months before the election, Dube-Ncube will reverse the ANC’s fortunes if she has to chart a different course to Zikalala’s?

Could she have done anything fundamentally different to what Zikalala did in the face of the kind of challenges that engulfed the province during his tenure — Covid, the floods, the unrest in July 2021, the passing of King Goodwill Zwelithini and the subsequent royal battles over succession?

Team management

One aspect she could handle differently is management of the team under her. Zikalala lost the confidence of his team because of his love of the limelight and hogging media platforms, which left line departments on the sidelines when opportunities to shine arose. 

After all, the premier’s office is not an implementing department and should essentially be coordinating and overseeing the work of members of the executive committee. While there was no question about Zikalala’s diligence, his over-exposure also laid bare his shortcomings as he offered pearls of questionable wisdom on the judiciary and how it should do its work. Truly bizarre at times, such as when he spoke about the review of our constitutional democracy.

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Dube-Ncube will be aware of these pitfalls. She would also know that former premier Senzo Mchunu was forced by the ANC to resign because some of the members of his executive council complained bitterly to the party about his leadership when he cracked the whip, as any leader would occasionally have to.

As the make-up of the executive council announced this week was not of Dube-Ncube’s making, she would be aware of her limitations as their boss.

It is remarkable that there are six women against four men in the new executive council in this 11-person collective led by a woman. That should be some cause for celebration. However, ANC women have a well-documented history of preferring to elevate men to leadership positions at the expense of some of their own, which makes working together difficult. 

It is reasonable to expect that despite all the celebrations around the election of the province’s first female premier, especially during Women’s Month, Dube-Ncube will be confronted by the same power dynamics that have resulted in women taking this long to see the first KZN female premier. 

Convenient gimmick

As indicated above, despite her eminent suitability for the job, she is only being called upon to smooth the transition from the leadership previously constituted by Zikalala to the preferences of the new leadership. 

Having to balance the interests of the ANC and its constituent parts which did not endorse her at the conference to lead them to victory in 2024 means that she is set on a path of petty jealousies and backstabbing. 

Perhaps it will be nothing personal. After all, even Mchunu would have felt betrayed that he was forced to resign while he thought he was carrying out the mandate of his organisation.

Zikalala similarly left on a sour note when he felt that the narrative by his own comrades that he had abandoned former president Jacob Zuma cost him the provincial election last month.

At least he had become premier after being elected provincial chair of the ANC. Dube-Ncube does not have that leverage because the branches did not embrace her. 

We can therefore only celebrate properly when the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal nominates Dube-Ncube — or any other woman — to the premiership when they think she is good enough to lead their organisation.

She can’t be a prized asset for society as a whole, but not good enough for her own political home — unless what should be a momentous occasion is only a gimmick for the convenience of machinations by men. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    No Cyril, I don’t think Nomusa is going to do anything other than adopt a holding pattern. Do you remember when the triumphant members carried Zikalala on their shoulders when he was elected and then put his name in the Chamber instead of the residing premier Senzo Mchunu. This politics thing – eish!

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