Tension in the house

The Western Cape African National Congress is pushing for a greater say in the provincial government in a direct challenge to Premier Ebrahim Rasool. This could rekindle chronic party tensions.

According to a resolution adopted at its general council, the party is to build “closer links” between party and government to ensure “greater accountability”.

Provincial chairperson James Ngculu motivated the resolution by criticising “some” ANC counterparts in government for viewing the party as a “nuisance”, and the failure of Rasool’s provincial cabinet to consult the party.

“Why [are] some government programmes done and implemented without recourse or interaction with the ANC? ... Where is the accountability of the cabinet? Is it not supposed to be the PEC [provincial executive committee]? ...
Why should heads of department [be] changed or appointed without recourse, let alone discussion with the provincial leadership?” asks Ngculu’s political report to last Saturday’s general council.

He said the government’s attitude contradicted ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe’s statement that “you must never find a situation where the ANC is not in the loop”.

Internal tensions between Ngculu’s “Africanist” faction and Rasool’s supporters have racked the ANC for more than two years, starting with the candidate list process for the April 2004 elections and continuing to its party conference in June last year, where Ngculu replaced Rasool as provincial ANC chairperson.

Internal conflict has continued to flare, most recently over ANC members who stood as independents in the March 1 local government election. Relations between party and government have remained uneasy.

When Mcebisi Skwatsha resigned as Western Cape minister of transport in July 2005, after Luthuli House insisted the ANC secretary’s position was full time, the newly elected ANC executive tried to tell Rasool who to appoint to his provincial cabinet.

This failed, and the cabinet remains precariously balanced between the two camps.

Skwatsha on Tuesday dismissed the suggestion that the general council’s resolution meant the ANC wanted to get rid of certain provincial ministers. “These appointments are the prerogative of the premier,” he told the Mail & Guardian.

Although Rasool was an ordinary provincial executive member, he sat as an observer at the office-bearers’ meetings, Skwatsha explained.

He admitted that meetings between himself and the premier were frequently cancelled because of their “busy diaries”.

On Saturday, ANC national executive committee member Kader Asmal warned the general council not to paper over the cracks, as infighting weakened the party.

Meanwhile, the hearing about the controversy over the one-year extension of Wallace Mgoqi’s contract as Cape Town’s city manager was initiated in the Cape High Court on Tuesday.

Mgoqi wants the court to declare invalid the special council meeting of April 10, at which his contract extension was revoked, effectively leaving him without a job. The city wants the court to set aside former mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo’s decision to extend the contract. Judgement has been reserved.

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