Phosa backs Pule for premier

Mpumalanga could have its first woman premier since 1994 if a lobby group within the provincial ANC has its way.

Several sources have told the Mail & Guardian that a lobby group supported by ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa is pushing for ANC national working committee member and the party’s provincial Women’s League secretary, Dina Pule, to become the province’s first woman premier.

The ANC’s provincial executive committee is yet to decide on the three candidates whose names will be submitted to Luthuli House for a final decision. But this week the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in the province named Pule as one of its preferred candidates for the premiership.

With all ANC structures throughout the nine provinces headed by men, Luthuli House is under pressure to appoint some women premiers in line with its 50/50 gender parity target.

The other two names nominated by the ANC’s youth wing are ANC provincial chairperson and agriculture minister David “DD” Mabuza and his deputy Charles Makola.

Mabuza was initially touted as the front-runner for the province’s top job. However, he is believed to have fallen out of favour with ANC president Jacob Zuma after allegations that Mabuza regarded the payment of R400 000 he made towards Zuma’s wedding last year as his ticket to the premiership.

These allegations were made by former Mpumalanga ANCYL boss James Nkambule in a letter written to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe earlier this year. Nkambule is the man who signed a letter in 2002 accusing Phosa, Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale of plotting a coup against then president Thabo Mbeki. He is now a close ally of Phosa, who when premier of Mpumalanga fired Mabuza for alleged corruption.

In his letter, Nkambule also accused Mabuza of sowing divisions within the ANC in the province.

In an SMS sent to ANC members in December last year, Mabuza’s supporters described “emperor” Makola as a liar, sell-out and FBI agent who is destroying the ANC.

Tensions have grown within the Mpumulanga ANC since before the party’s list conference earlier this year with members divided on whether Mabuza or Makola should be the province’s premier.

The Phosa group is now planning to use the divisions caused by Mabusa and Makola to push Pule as the neutral candidate for the premiership position. “The argument to have Pule as premier is very strong within ANC branches.

“She is seen as the most senior person within the ANC in the province. Unlike the two other candidates [Makola and Mabuza], she has not been divisive,” said one ANC provincial leader.

Pule enjoys support from Ekangala and Gert Sibande regions, the ANC Women’s League and the provincial Young Communist League. However, while ANCYL secretary Isaac Mahlangu supports Pule, the youth league’s provincial chairperson, Thabeleng Maabane, is supporting Mabuza.

Phosa was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo


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