Molefe on the skids

North West Premier Popo Molefe’s tardiness in acting against “under-performing” colleagues and alleged inefficiency and mismanagement are among the reasons cited for his almost certain removal as African National Congress leader in the province.

The North West ANC is to hold its conference next week. Already Women’s League national deputy chairperson Thandi Modise has been nominated as the new chairperson by four of the province’s five regions.

The challenge to Molefe is being mounted by senior members of the ANC provincial executive and the party’s Youth League, who have been campaigning for Modise.
She has the backing of the Bophirima, Kgaladi, southern and central regions, while only Bojanala has nominated Molefe.

A document penned by senior ANC member Baba Schalk, which is extremely critical of the present provincial regime, is being circulated within the provincial party structures as part of the anti-Molefe campaign.

Schalk refers to the current provincial government’s “pathetic performance, where only 31% of the province’s capital budget for the financial year 2001 to 2002 was utilised”. Budgets were public-policy statements used as a criterion to evaluate government performance. “In this respect, ours is a crying shame,” Schalk says.

He also says that most of the province’s parastatals have been under judicial management for almost three years “without any trace of a rescue strategy”.

Schalk calls for party members to ignore ethnicity, class, race and gender as criteria for the selection of leaders. He also cautions against pigeonholing candidates as “exiles, UDFs and Robben Islanders”. Molefe is a former United Democratic Front leader.

The Youth League has expressed concern that its “relations with the ANC are the worst in the history of the organisation in the province”, and has called for a complete overhaul of the leadership. “The chairperson should be changed,” it said.

The league is openly touting Modise as its favoured successor as provincial chairperson. League secretary Kabelo Mataboge said: “It would be correct for Molefe not to contest another term.”

Inaugurated as premier after the first democratic election in 1994, Molefe is already in his second term of office as premier and chairperson of the provincial ANC. This week provincial head of communications Mandlenkosi Mayisela said Molefe had declared his willingness to continue to “serve the organisation and the province in whatever capacity”.

According to senior party sources in the province, Molefe has been unable to act against underperforming colleagues. “When things go wrong, Molefe wouldn’t hastily crack the whip. This has slowed transformation in the province,” said a source.

The former Delmas treason trialist is held in high esteem in some circles, and his supporters praise him for having contained the far right in North West. A survey by the Human Research Council in 1997 found Molefe to be the most popular premier in the country.

His supporters say Molefe’s passionate crusade for the development of neglected areas such as Dinikana, Disaleng and Mathopestad near Ventersdorp had built the ANC’s rural support. Over the years there had been an almost wholesale transfer of voters from former Bophuthatswana president Lucas Mangope’s United Christian Democratic Party to the ANC.

His weakness, however, is his apparent failure to unite the party at the provincial leadership level. Last year the Mail & Guardian reported on an anti-Thabo Mbeki pamphlet, allegedly from a grouping within the provincial leadership, which called for “one president, one term”.

Having started his political career in the Black Consciousness movement, later becoming a founder member of the UDF, Molefe is widely seen as not belonging to Mbeki’s camp in the North West, allegedly led by the speaker of the legislature and former challenger for the ANC chairperson, Johannes Tselapedi.

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