Provinces vs Luthuli House

ANC headquarters have been accused of fiddling the party’s electoral list for Mpumalanga in order to elbow party chairperson and provincial Agriculture minister David DD Mabuza out to make way for a woman premier after next month’s general elections.

The accusations came after the ANC leadership moved Mabuza’s name from position one to seven on the party list submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission last week.

Although the majority of ANC branches in the province have put Mabuza as their number one candidate, a position that almost guaranteed he would be the next premier, Luthuli House has replaced him with a lesser-known woman candidate, Thandi Dibakwane. Dibakwane was initially number 30 on the provincial list.

With all ANC provincial structures headed by men, the party is under pressure to choose female premiers in order to comply with its 50/50 gender parity target. Some senior ANC leaders within the province and the national office have been lobbying hard for the party to appoint a first woman premier in Mpumalanga since 1994.

Already, the provincial ANC Youth League have nominated ANC national working committee member Dina Pule as a premier candidate.
Two other candidates nominated by the youth league are Mabuza and his deputy Charles Makola. However, Pule’s name has since been removed from provincial to national list, while Makola has declined nomination.

The ANC’s move to put Dibakwane on top of the provincial list has been interpreted by many within the ANC as the clearest indication yet that the party was serious about having a woman premier in the province. But Mabuza’s supporters who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity this week said they would not let Luthuli House impose a premier candidate on the province.

A senior ANC provincial leader said the provincial executive would meet ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe this week to find out the reasons behind the ANC’s decision to remove Mabuza as the number one candidate.

“The explanation that we got from Mantashe is that this [the removal of Mabuza’s name] was a mistake, but the funny part is that this is only happening in Mpumalanga. Even if this was a mistake the decision has a legal implication for
the IEC. When premiers are appointed, [parties] first consider the list submitted to the IEC.

“We are aware that some national leaders have been drumming support for a woman premier in the province. Since Matthews Phosa [ANC Treasurer] was removed as Mpumalanga premier, all premier candidates have been imposed on the province by the ANC NEC. It has been a trend and it’s likely to re-occur.

“People are very angry about this decision. They see it as undermining ANC branches. We want to know from Mantashe if this indeed was a genuine mistake or the leadership fiddled with the provincial list. If you deal with Mpumalanga, you are dealing with the ANC. Today over 200 people who joined Cope earlier this year are returning to the ANC because of Mabuza’s leadership style. We cannot afford to have anyone other than him as the next premier,” said the provincial

A staunch supporter of Jacob Zuma, Mabuza is believed to have fallen out of favour with the ANC president after allegations that he regarded the payment of R400 000 he made towards Zuma’s wedding last year as his ticket to the premiership. These allegations were made by former ANCYL boss James Nkambule in a letter written to Mantashe earlier this year. In his letter Nkambule also accused Mabuza of sowing divisions within the ANC in the province.

Other provinces likely to have women premiers include the Western Cape and the Northern Cape. Although Western Cape ANC chairman Mcebisi Skwatsha tops the provincial list, party insiders told the M&G this week that almost 80% of the ANC membership were in favour of current premier Lynn Brown continuing in her position after the elections. The M&G also understands that some ANC leaders are planning to use the corruption case against Northern Cape ANC chairman John Block as an excuse to put a woman candidate forward as the provincial premier.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo