From mayor to premier?

Controversial former Cape Town mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo, who ruled the city between 2002 and 2006 and left the post after unauthorised spending of R275,6-million and irregular spending of R54,09-million, could be in the running to rule the Mother City again.

Recently Mfeketo was appointed convener of the Western Cape at the ANC’s first national working committee (NWC) meeting at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.

The job, formerly held by Pallo Jordan and Zola Skweyiya, is a senior post in the province and shows that Mfeketo is back in the political fold.

As convener, Mfeketo will participate at branch level with ANC members and ensure that the leadership does its work. Her deployment is a huge vote of confidence, as the Western Cape is a difficult province for the ANC and the only one where the party is not in power.

She is on the ANC’s NWC and was number 27 on the party’s national executive committee (NEC) list.

Embattled Premier Ebrahim Rasool is likely to come under attack from his own party and faces removal from his post because he can no longer rely on President Thabo Mbeki’s protection after Jacob Zuma’s ascent to the party’s top post.

The ANC in the province has been embroiled in a bitter leadership battle, with Rasool and his caucus on the one side and Western Cape provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha on the other.

Skwatsha said rumours that Rasool was going to be replaced by Mfeketo were “false and mischievous”, adding: “There’s been no discussion held by the ANC on the premier issue.”

Regarding the former mayor, he said: “It’s all systems go for Mfeketo. She was voted on to the NEC and NWC.
I think people are using her potentially becoming the premier as a scarecrow to tell people, ‘See, there goes the ANC again.’ She has never been found guilty of corruption.”

The provincial leadership is sceptical about Mfeketo’s chances of becoming the next Western Cape premier.

Provincial ANC chairperson James Ngculu, who backed Mbeki in Polokwane and is seen as a Rasool supporter, said: “It’s way too early to talk about positions. These are wild speculations and ... [there is] this terrible culture that’s emerging in the organisation where individuals are being punted for certain jobs. This is a very bad culture taking root in the movement.”

A senior ANC member who wanted to remain anonymous said this week that the ANC would not be “so stupid” as to appoint Mfeketo again.

“Anybody in their right mind would know that it would be very stupid to make her the premier, because she messed up so much when she was the mayor. There’s no evidence that she’s corrupt, but she made many tactical mistakes and she was very unaccountable to ANC structures. Her becoming the premier is a no-no. It’s not on the cards at all.”

He added: “Putting the rumour out there that Rasool is to be removed in favour of a black person is potentially alienating for coloured voters and is very mischievous.”

Coloured people constitute about 54% of voters in the province, with blacks and whites each making up about 23% of the electorate.

Garth Strachan, ANC provincial spokesperson, said: “Replacing Rasool with Mfeketo has never been discussed in any constitutional structure. The provincial working committee is meeting this coming week and only then will the ANC’s leadership start talking about the months and tasks ahead.”

Cape Town mayor Helen Zille said she would not be surprised “at anything”. “The ANC put her up as the candidate for a second term as mayor, so why not premier? She is now on the NEC and is one of the more powerful ANC members from the Western Cape.”

Zille said the city was in a bad state when power was handed over to the Democratic Alliance. “The city had an enormous debt, decisions were taken in secret and, in these circumstances, corruption was inevitable.

“I do think Rasool is likely to be replaced because the Zuma group will not want to retain a key and outspoken Mbeki ally in such a key position. He is controversial within his party. Instead of helping me to realign politics in the Western Cape, he has tried hard to polarise it. I do not think he will be the premier candidate in 2009.”

Shado Twala, Rasool’s spokesperson, said the premier was “going nowhere, as far as I know, and [as far] as the premier is concerned, it’s business as usual. These are rumours and nothing more.”

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