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ANC government officials in KZN fear losing their jobs after fiercely contested May 29 polls

ANC government officials in KZN fear losing their jobs after fiercely contested May 29 polls
Nomusa Phungula, spokesperson for the outgoing Speaker of the KZN legislature. Outgoing KwaZulu-Natal legislature Speaker Nontembeko Boyce. (Illustrative image. Photos: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

The ANC has led KwaZulu-Natal for 20 years. Now, as it faces the possibility of losing the province in the elections, some government officials worry they may be out of work under a new administration.

KwaZulu-Natal — with 5.7 million registered voters — is expected to be hotly contested by rival parties in the election. Most opinion polls suggest it is likely to emerge with a coalition government as none of the parties is expected to win an outright majority.

If this happens, KZN will see a change of government, something that last occurred in the province in 2004, when the African National Congress (ANC) won it from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), resulting in S’bu Ndebele becoming the first ANC premier of KwaZulu-Natal.

This time around, it is not yet clear whether the ANC will retain power on its own or with a coalition; whether the IFP and its coalition with the DA and other parties will turn the tables; or whether the MK party will make a big impact.

Read more in Daily Maverick: KZN a fierce battleground for biggest slice of political cake as final countdown to 29 May poll begins

In early April, the outgoing KwaZulu-Natal legislature Speaker, Nontembeko Boyce, presided over the last sitting of the KZN legislature. On 9 April, she presided over a farewell gala dinner and gave certificates of service and appreciation to all 80 MPLs who were part of the sixth administration, marking the end of their careers, unless, of course, they return to the House after the elections.

Only about 250 officials whose contracts are directly linked to their political head or Members of Executive Council (MECs) will immediately be out of jobs, waiting for the outcome of the elections to see whether their political masters or principals will return to office or whether new bosses would still require their services or will instead seek new people who will do their work.

These officials include heads of ministries, spokespeople, security and bodyguards, personal assistants and legal advisers.

There are other positions whose incumbents are employed permanently but who are too important for any new government to ignore. These include staff in supply chain management divisions (read, tender department), finance and others where governments might be wary of the current occupants, who were appointed by previous administrations.

Thousands of other workers in the KZN government — whose jobs are safe because their positions are on permanent contract — are waiting to find out who will lead their government and if they will continue to be evaluated according to the standards set by the ANC government.

Uncertain future

Some government workers, employed during successive ANC administrations in KZN, spoke to Daily Maverick on condition of anonymity to avoid attracting the ire of political parties that will form the new government.

Most said they feared that the new government would seek to make wholesale personnel changes.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” said one mid-level official who has been working in the KZN provincial government for the past eight years.

“All of us [in government] are affected. We were talking with colleagues about how we will pay for our bonds, cars and children’s education if the new rulers say they don’t want us.”

Another official, who has served in different government capacities since 2011, said: “We will wait and see what happens.” 

“Other people will be voting for their future. We, on the other side, will be voting with our future as well as the future of our jobs in mind.”

A spokesperson for one of the provincial government’s top officials said he didn’t know whether he was still supposed to speak to the media, saying the sense of confusion was rife among colleagues.

Nomusa Phungula, the spokesperson for the outgoing Speaker of the KZN legislature, said the contracts of most of the people tied to the sixth administration would come to an end at midnight on 28 May, but the government would continue to fulfil its duties and commitments, and the premier Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube will still be in charge until a new premier has been elected by the KZN legislature.  

“Government does not stand still. People who are rendering services will be expected to do their work,” Phungula said.

Merit, not affiliation

The National Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), which represents thousands of workers in the public or government sector, said it was fully behind the campaign of the ANC, but if the ANC lost in KZN, it would support workers whose jobs could be threatened by a new government.  

Ayanda Zulu, Nehawu’s KZN provincial secretary, said he was aware of the sense of insecurity felt by some of the workers.

“We were fighting for the overwhelming victory of the ANC, but that does not mean we are not aware of the other political parties. It is very unfortunate that some workers would have to lose jobs because their political principals are leaving.

“We say the Ministerial Handbook should be changed or amended so that these workers would instead be absorbed into the department instead of throwing them into the streets. We believe that most government jobs should be more about qualification and ability rather than which political party you belong to,” Zulu said. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024

This article was amended to clarify the position of the premier  and executive immediately after the elections.

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