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ActionSA’s Funzi Ngobeni joins competitive race for Gauteng premier

ActionSA’s Funzi Ngobeni joins competitive race for Gauteng premier
Illustrative image | Sources: (Clockwise from top left) Democratic Alliance’s Solly Msimanga. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu) | ActionSA’s Funzi Ngobeni. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake) | ANC’s Panyaza Lesufi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle) | Rise Mzansi’s Vuyiswa Ramokgopa. (Photo: Leon Sadiki / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

The ANC is expected to lose its majority in Gauteng in the 2024 elections, leaving the field wide open for premier. On Thursday, ActionSA announced its candidate, Funzi Ngobeni. He joins a competitive list of candidates who are likely to be vying to become premier through a coalition.

ActionSA provincial leader Funzi Ngobeni’s name has become the latest to be thrown into the ring in the battle for Gauteng premiership. 

Ngobeni has already set his sights on dismantling the controversial Crime Prevention Wardens, also known as AmaPanyaza, and instead deploy them to various municipalities across the province.

He joins strong contenders for the premiership, including the incumbent, Panyaza Lesufi of the ANC, the DA’s Solly Msimanga, the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Rise Mzansi’s Vuyiswa Ramokgopa, among others fighting to keep the ANC out of power in the country’s economic hub. 

The province is home to more than 15 million people and contributes about 40% to the country’s GDP. It is however besieged by deteriorating basic services including water and electricity as well as high unemployment, violent crime and crumbling infrastructure.

Ngobeni was endorsed by ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba on Thursday, 29 February, at a packed event in Newtown, Johannesburg, and has already announced plans to fix what he labelled “the decay of 30 years of the ruling party’s misrule”. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ActionSA eyes outright win in 2024, but opposition coalition pact remains ‘insurance’

Following the 2021 local government elections, the ANC lost control of all the Gauteng metros – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane – to DA-led coalitions. The ANC’s support across the country declined to 45.5%, the first time it had dipped below 50% since it won the country’s first democratic elections in 1994 with 62.65%, and recorded only 36% in Gauteng. In the 2019 provincial vote in Gauteng, the ANC won 50.19%.

ActionSA was launched amid the Covid-19 pandemic and contested elections for the first time in 2021. It received 547,862 votes, making it the sixth-largest party nationally despite only competing in six of the country’s 278 municipalities.

Should Ngobeni be elected as premier, possibly with the assistance of other political parties in a coalition, one of his first priorities will be to commission a provincial audit of all abandoned properties, including old factories and dilapidated residential buildings, as these properties carried enormous economic potential, he said.

His second priority will be to fix all the provincially controlled traffic lights, road markings and signs, ensuring they work while enhancing the monitoring and evaluation system to track those that malfunction.

Who is Funzi Ngobeni?

Ngobeni hails from Munsieville, a township in the Krugersdorp area of Gauteng. He has served as a councillor in the City of Johannesburg, first for the DA in the 2016 term and then for ActionSA in the current term. He has served as an MMC for transport, finance and development planning. 

He was the DA’s candidate to replace former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba in 2019 before he later left the party to join Mashaba at ActionSA.

His academic qualifications include a postgraduate diploma in public management and a certificate in housing policy development and management from the Wits School of Governance. 

He previously served as ActionSA’s director of operations and was responsible for setting up party structures across the country. Before becoming a politician, he was a senior sales executive in southern Africa for Air Botswana.

During his tenure as a Johannesburg councillor, Ngobeni spearheaded several motions of no confidence against leaders including former executive mayor Thapelo Amad.

Ngobeni is unapologetic about his plan to do away with AmaPanyaza. 

“Our intention is to strengthen municipal law enforcement, as policing is not a provincial competence, thus resulting in a grassroots approach to policing within our province.

“This is consistent with ActionSA’s law and order policy, which advocates for the devolution of policing functions. For this to succeed, we will also endeavour to strengthen our relationship with the South African Police Service to ensure they are sufficiently capacitated to execute their duties,” he said.

Ngobeni faces stiff competition from other candidates vying for the premiership.

Vuyiswa Ramokgopa  

Ramokgopa is Rise Mzansi’s national chairperson. She is an entrepreneur and business leader with more than 15 years of experience in industries such as retail and marketing. In May 2023, she resigned as CEO of the SA Institute of Black Property Professionals to further her academic studies and pursue business interests.  

She holds a BCom degree in politics, philosophy and economics from the University of Cape Town and chairs the National Property Practitioners Council.

On Wednesday, she penned a letter to Premier Lesufi expressing discontent with the handling of the controversial e-toll scheme, which the local and national government is scrambling to end permanently.

“Twice in a row, in your State of the Province Address, you fed residents lies about your intention to scrap the burdensome e-tolling system. Yet year after year residents are left grappling with the same expensive and unwanted scheme.

“It has become clear that e-tolls serve only to line the pockets of the corrupt at the expense of hard-working Gauteng residents,” Ramokgopa said.  

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi  

The EFF’s Ndlozi has been a Member of the National Assembly since 2014. He served as the red berets’ first official spokesperson until his resignation in 2020. He was subsequently announced as the head of the party’s political education.  

In October 2023, he was touted by EFF leader Julius Malema as a suitable candidate to take Lesufi head-on. He was also endorsed by EFF’s Gauteng leader Nkululeko Dunga. 

Ndlozi holds a PhD in political sociology from Wits University.

Ndlozi is no stranger to controversy. In 2022, he and Malema were acquitted of charges of common assault. They were accused of assaulting Lieutenant-Colonel Johannes Jacobus Venter by shoving him after the officer blocked them from accessing the cemetery during the funeral of struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Fourways on 14 April 2018.

Solly Msimanga

The DA’s Msimanga was elected as mayor of Tshwane after the 2016 local elections through a coalition between the DA and several smaller parties, with the informal backing of the EFF.

He stepped down as the mayor in 2019 in a bid to focus on his ambitions of being the provincial leader.

He was then appointed as the DA’s acting provincial leader after the departure of John Moodey, who moved to ActionSA. Msimanga was officially elected to the position at the DA’s virtual Gauteng conference in 2020.  

Msimanga was involved in a row related to a finding by the Auditor-General during his tenure as Tshwane mayor. It found that the award of a contract to engineering company GladAfrica was irregular.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Msimanga attacks city manager over GladAfrica tender

The Auditor-General found, among other things, that the contract was not compliant with regulations. It also found that the city procured beyond the scope and terms and conditions of the original contract the service provider had with the Development Bank of Southern Africa. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: DA touts Solly Msimanga as challenger to ANC’s Panyaza Lesufi in battle for Gauteng premiership   

Panyaza Lesufi 

Lesufi has been the premier of Gauteng since last year after being voted in as the chairperson of the ANC in the province, taking over from David Makhura.

He has not been officially announced as the party’s candidate. It is, however, likely that he will be put forward for the position unopposed because of his position in the ANC and his track record.

Since he was appointed as premier, he has introduced multiple public employment programmes, including Nasi Ispani and the Crime Prevention Wardens. 

Lesufi first announced the creation of the new cadre of crime-busters in his inaugural State of the Province Address in February 2023, as part of his revamped anti-crime strategy. However, reports have shown that he might have flouted processes in the hiring of these wardens.

He also made headlines for making promises to put an end to the disastrous e-toll system which has been giving Gauteng motorists headaches for more than a decade.

To date, no announcement has been made to end the controversial tolling system.

Of the five candidates, Lesufi has the most experience in provincial government, and Ndlozi comes out on top when it comes to academic qualifications. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Tebogo Moalusi says:

    Vuyiswa for Gauteng Premier. She’s a competent, and experienced leader. As National Chairperson of RISE Mzansi, she’s done incredibly well to help build a national organisation in under a year, with provincial structures, people and processes. All of the provinces will contest elections, with strong fielded candidates. Thats impressive. We need new leaders, new energy, fresh thinking. Not a recycling of old people who have failed, given the chance. Also, it’s refreshing to see that we can trust women with significant leadership roles in society. Some people are only interested in transforming society only on paper. When it’s time to demonstrate their politics meaningfully, crickets. 🦗

  • Itumeleng Monametsi says:

    In a deeply patriarchal society, it is quite refreshing to have a competent, qualified and ethical woman dare to challenge the status quo. Perhaps the quality of our politics might improve if more of the high calibre woman took up space.

    I look forward to 29 May 2024.

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