/ 4 October 2008

Which way will he swing?

ANC Gauteng chair Paul Mashatile. Photograph: Paul Botes
ANC Gauteng chair Paul Mashatile. Photograph: Paul Botes

The ANC’s Gauteng chair, Paul Mashatile, is tipped to replace Mbhazima Shilowa as Gauteng premier, but his supporters say he may also be in the running for the post of national deputy finance minister.

The ANC leadership in Gauteng this week discussed Shilowa’s replacement and Mashatile remains the hot favourite. An announcement is expected on Monday.

But there is an outside possibility that he will follow in the footsteps of former Gauteng finance minister Jabu Moleketi, who resigned last week as Trevor Manuel’s deputy after Thabo Mbeki was sacked.

Mashatile has served as provincial finance minister since 2004 and has been involved in setting up structures to fuel economic development in the province. He also served as acting premier in Shilowa’s absence.

Decisions about a new deputy minister of finance, and other vacant deputy ministerships, are expected to be made at a weekend meeting of tripartite alliance leaders.

An ANC source said that Mashatile (46) considers himself ”more senior than Shilowa” and feels he has not yet received the post to which his experience and political standing entitle him. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The question of whether a deputy minister outranks a premier is a moot one. A treasury source said the job of deputy finance minister ”is not that important. If someone new comes in they will have to learn the ropes. Mashatile would probably not be a bad choice, as he and Trevor are ideologically not very far apart. But his involvement in allegations of corruption might be a problem for Trevor,” the source said.

Mashatile has been selected by the ANC’s Gauteng provincial executive committee as the leading candidate for the premiership. His name, with those of Gauteng education minister Angie Motshekga and housing minister Nomvula Mokonyane, has been submitted to ANC headquarters.

If Mashatile is pushed upstairs, Motshekga’s party seniority would guarantee her the premiership. She is a member of the ANC’s national working committee and ANC Women’s League president.

A political veteran in Gauteng, Alexandra-born Mashatile was involved in setting up the first post-1990 ANC structure in the region and has been a minister in every provincial Cabinet since 1994.

After losing the post of deputy chairperson to Motshekga in 2004, he rose to the position of party chair last year. Mashatile has an extensive base in Gauteng, strengthened by the loyalty of members he has set up in business. He is a key fundraiser for the ANC, with excellent connections in the business sector.

During his campaign to become provincial chair his detractors accused him of using his enormous wealth to ”buy” votes by throwing big parties and purchasing cellphone airtime for ANC members. These allegations were never proved.

A highly ambitious man, Mashatile jumped the gun on the Soweto monorail project, which was shelved after it was revealed that it did not have the blessing of Shilowa or national Transport Minister Jeff Radebe.

Although Mashatile is not expected to carry out a major Cabinet reshuffle, some provincial ministers, including Brian Hlongwa (health) and Qedani Mahlangu (local government) may be insecure about their positions. Mashatile will be expected to make good on promises made by Shilowa, such as ensuring an 8% growth rate and developing the migrant labour hostels which were seen as central to this year’s xenophobic outbursts.

No stranger to controversy
The likely new Gauteng premier, Paul Mashatile, has featured prominently in the pages of the Mail & Guardian in the past two years – mostly for the wrong reasons, unfortunately.

  • In 2006 the M&G revealed that Mashatile had declared an interest in the listed IT company, Business Connexion, which had contracts with the Gauteng Shared Service Centre (GSSC). The GSSC answered to him as provincial finance minister. Later he said he had been offered but never taken up a R50-million stake in the firm. Gauteng’s Integrity Commissioner Jules Browde cleared Mashatile of a conflict of interest in 2006.
  • In July last year the M&G revealed that the study fees of Mashatile’s nephew were paid by government consultant Donny Nadison, who had two contracts with the Gauteng Economic Development Agency (Geda). A statutory body, Geda reports to Gauteng’s finance minister. Nadison claimed he sponsored a number of young people through his New Africa Youth Trust and had ”mentored” Mashatile’s nephew. Mashatile argued that he had facilitated funding for a number of students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, including his nephew. He had no powers to award tenders and was not involved in any of Nadison’s Geda tenders.
  • In August last year the M&G reported that Mashatile’s daughter, Palesa, was employed by Business Connexion as the company awaited the outcome of two multimillion-rand tenders from the GSSC. The M&G also outlined Mashatile’s connection with the so-called ”Alex mafia” — former activists from Alexandra township who have risen to positions of influence around Mashatile in Gauteng.
  • It was revealed that Geda and the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller, which also reported to him, awarded tenders to a security company which has Mashatile’s friends as directors. Mashatile accused the M&G of a witch-hunt against him.
  • One of the more sensational storms around Mashatile was when his department footed a R96 000 bill for more than 200 people at the exclusive Sandton French restaurant, Auberge Michel, in 2006. — Adriaan Basson and Stefaans Brümmer