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Free State chair Dukwana gets ANC Top Seven nod for premiership after embattled Ntombela’s exit

Free State chair Dukwana gets ANC Top Seven nod for premiership after embattled Ntombela’s exit
Former Free State premier Sisi Ntombela. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw) | Free State ANC chairperson Mxolisi Dukwana. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw)

The ANC’s national officials have given green light for Free State chairperson Mxolisi Dukwana to be the next premier after Sisi Ntombela tendered her resignation, indicating she was ready to be redeployed.

The ANC’s Free State chairperson, Mxolisi Dukwana, is expected to be sworn in as a member of the legislature this week, paving the way for him to become the next premier.

This follows an endorsement by the party’s Top Seven.    

Dukwana will have barely been in the job for a week and have to deliver the State of the Province Address (Sopa). 

Party secretary-general Fikile Mbalula informed the province’s secretary, Polediso Motsoeneng, in an email that following interviews with Dukwana, Dibolelo Mahlatsi and Ketso Makume, they had resolved to appoint Dukwana.  

“Based on these interviews, the national officials are of the view that all three candidates are of very high calibre and have the potential to play meaningful roles as deployees in a number of spheres of government,” wrote Mbalula.  

“In the current conjecture, given his experience and the challenges faced by the Free State, the national officials are of the view that comrade Mxolisi Dukwana is the preferred ANC candidate for the position of Premier of Free State.”

Mbalula’s email was sent on the day outgoing premier Sisi Ntombela succumbed to calls for her to resign after failing to be elected into the party’s provincial structure and following an assessment of her performance.     

Read in Daily Maverick:Sisi Ntombela lost bid for FS ANC chair, then for PEC membership, now fighting for political life

Ntombela tendered her resignation on Tuesday, a week before she was due to deliver her Sopa.   

In a letter to Motsoeneng, Ntombela indicated she was resigning both as premier and member of the Free State legislature, effective from Friday, 24 February 2023.  

“I want to express my appreciation for the support you and my organisation the ANC have provided me with during my tenure as the member of the legislature and premier of the province,” she wrote.  

“Together we have done our best in difficult circumstances to meet the expectations of our people. I wish the incoming premier and my beloved ANC all the best in the task that lies ahead.”

Ntombela also said she was ready for the party to deploy her into any other portfolio: “I remain available and committed to our revolutionary goals and ready to serve in any deployment the organisation deems fit.” 

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Her resignation comes after the provincial executive committee’s (PEC) decision to recall several officials after an assessment of the performance of party members in the province and amid calls for her to step down.  

Read in Daily Maverick:Free State ANC axes premier Sisi Ntombela, Mangaung mayor and several MECs

The provincial conference, opened by the party’s national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, heard that spheres of government had become dysfunctional and that there had been no government, a statement some delegates interpreted as a vote of no confidence against Ntombela.   

Read in Daily Maverick:Criminal syndicates operated in the Free State, fleeced the State and collapsed services – ANC political report

In August 2022, Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke warned that the province was in serious trouble, with not one municipality having received a clean audit for the past five years.

Read in Daily Maverick:AG slams failing Free State municipalities after no clean audit in 5 years  

Before the PEC’s decision to recall Ntombela, she lost a bid to become the party’s provincial chairperson at the ninth provincial conference last month.  

Dukwana defeated Ntombela in the tight race to become provincial chairperson and is now poised to become the next premier at a special sitting of the provincial legislature on Thursday where he is expected to be sworn in as a member first.

‘Downward trajectory’

Reacting to Ntombela’s departure, the DA and ActionSA in the Free State said it was long overdue.  

The DA’s provincial spokesperson, Roy Jankielsohn, expressed concern with her timing, suggesting it created a leadership crisis for the ANC in light of the Sopa, for which costs had already been incurred.   

Despite the timing, Jankielsohn said the province under Ntombela had followed a downward trajectory:

“Since the former premier was elected into office in 2019, conditions in the Free State have continued to regress and residents of the province continue to bear the impact of the poor ANC leadership. While the ANC continues with their factional battles in the province, services and the economy continue to decline under the additional burden of load shedding.  

“The downward trajectory of the province which was set into motion during the tenure of Ace Magashule has only become more evident under the former premier’s leadership.” 

ActionSA’s Patricia Kopane echoed his sentiments, arguing that Ntombela had done little to improve or reverse what had been done by her predecessors. 

“Ntombela inherited the province in the worst condition, but she did nothing to reverse the damage and improve people’s lives, but instead continued in Ace Magashule’s footsteps. Under her leadership, the Free State has become the face of corruption, with numerous incomplete projects that were only created to enrich the ANC cabal,” said Kopane. DM


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