No easy task for new W Cape premier
Lynne Brown will be inaugurated on Friday as the Western Cape’s first female premier. She told Pearlie Joubert about her journey to her new corner office.
What did your family say after the ANC announced you as the new premier?
They all giggled and my nephew and nieces shouted: “Linny, we saw you on TV—you’re going to be a premier!” This is going to be a hectic job. No part of it is going to be easy.
The province is stable in terms of policies and how we spend our money, but we don’t live by policy—we work with people.
My work is about implementation and that’s my first challenge: who will be the implementers?
Talk is rife that you will replace current provincial ministers Leonard Ramatlakane, Cameron Dugmore, Tasneem Essop and Richard Dyantyi.
I am making no decisions about a cabinet reshuffle until this weekend. I first need to be inaugurated and this weekend I will sit down and think with the ANC leadership.
Will you sack some ministers?
I’ll only start thinking about that this weekend.
You are a coloured woman from the Cape Flats. Yet, of all groups in the province, coloured women are the most hostile to the ANC —
Yes, it’s true that coloured women, especially working-class, coloured women, don’t support the ANC. This is my specific challenge.
I represent the journey of a lot of coloured women. I was born in District Six, moved to Mitchells Plain during the forced removals in the 1970s and became politically involved in the 1980s because I was so angry about the injustice in our society—not because I’m coloured.
Are you the token coloured who must deliver the coloured vote to the ANC?
A lot of coloured people feel marginalised. But coloureds, like Afrikaners, aren’t a homogenous group who think and feel the same.
I believe the organisation chose me because I’m an active member and involved in my community. Of course I’m strategic to the ANC, but the fact that I’m coloured is not the most important issue. I’m capable.
Four of the Western Cape’s six premiers have been coloured, yet many coloureds feel socially and politically excluded. What’s your take on the Bruin Belange Inisiatief?
I think it’s a good idea for people to grapple with issues of identity and ask questions like “who are we?” and “where and how do we fit in?”
We’ve been marred by apartheid, like everybody else. But we should never take ourselves out of the mainstream and try to assert ourselves separately from the rest of society.
We’re the first indigenous people of the province and we’re part of this society. I will be very interested if we can go beyond the angry, marginalised group discussion.
The province is racially, economically and politically extremely divided and the ANC seems to be exacerbating those divisions —
How we unite the people in this province is my single biggest challenge. Racially the challenge is to find a way for individuals to participate politically and become part of the bigger picture.
I and the organisation need to find those things that will give people hope to live in the Western Cape. People are very stressed by crime and unemployment and poverty—we need to find hope again.
Haven’t you been set up for failure? What can you achieve in the eight months before the election? Research shows the ANC has very little chance of winning the province.
I’m not here for eight months—I’m here for the next five years!
We’ve got to use these eight months to try to unite the people of the Western Cape.
If somebody is setting me up for failure, show me that man! I’m a large woman and the ANC wouldn’t try to trip me up.
The ANC has always given me challenges and there’s a part of me asking: “Why me?” But I’ve never purposely been set up for failure.
This is the biggest contested province and has been since 1994. Nobody is going to walk over anybody else in this province.
We have to win it. I’m definitely not sitting here thinking that we’re going to lose.
You’ve inherited hot potatoes from Rasool, including the Erasmus commission.
There should be a handing over period between me and Ebrahim Rasool and I need to look at these “potatoes”. But I’m not there yet. As finance MEC I was the co-author of a lot of what’s been happening in the province in any case, because I was responsible for funding certain decisions. I don’t know what will happen to the Erasmus Commission.
Housing in the province has been disastrous, with infighting and growing homelessness.
My priority is to try to resolve the mess around the N2 Gateway housing project. About R1,2-billion has been allocated for housing. I need to urgently unlock what’s going on there because our backlogs are enormous.