Battle for the ANC's Wild West

The apparent assassination of a councillor and the weekend attack on Premier Edna Molewa is seen as the poisoned fruit of a bitter power struggle in the North West ANC between provincial leaders and Luthuli House “deployees”.

The stand-off, which also reflects a rift between supporters of ANC president Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, has dramatically escalated in the past fortnight.

Gunmen ambushed and killed Rustenburg councillor Moss Phakoe two weeks ago, while the motorcade of Molewa was fired on last Saturday. No one has been arrested in connection with the incidents.

Phakoe’s colleagues blamed his death on provincial executive committee (PEC) members who drew up a document identifying him as a troublemaker in the province.

Phakoe was a known Zuma supporter, while the PEC is accused of being loaded with Mbeki supporters.

At Phakoe’s memorial service Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi lashed out at the PEC members, accusing them of nepotism, patronage and “sickening” hero-worship of ANC provincial secretary Supra Mahumapelo.

This week Mahumapelo and NEC deployee Lumka Yengeni publicly traded verbal blows, with Yengeni insisting she is in the driving seat.

“The powers of the PEC of North West have been taken away in this election,” she said. As the Luthuli House-nominated provincial election coordinator, she was the party’s official voice in the ­province.

Another process might kick in when her team’s mandate expires after the election. “I’m not sure what will happen; it will depend on the political situation,” Yengeni said.

Mahumapelo contradicted this, saying Yengeni’s functions were to oversee election work and report to the provincial election team, which ultimately reports to the PEC.

He said that at a meeting on February 22 in Potchefstroom ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy, Thandi Modise, said that the deployees would work with the office of the provincial secretary in running election programmes.

“There’s nothing extraordinary about their deployment; the NEC always deploys people in provinces during elections,” he said.

A third position is held by the ANC chairperson in the province, Nono Maloyi, who said it does not matter who calls the shots. “It’s the leadership of the ANC, whether it’s the provincial leadership or ANC deployees,” Maloyi said.

There has been distrust between Luthuli House and the North West provincial leadership since the PEC was elected in May last year.

Tensions were exacerbated by suspicions that some PEC members, in particular Mahumapelo, covertly sympathise with the Congress of the People.

Three PEC members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said confusing the public about who is leading the North West is part of the NEC deployees’ strategy to use the election to erode the stature of provincial leaders.

“We’ve accepted we’re going to be disbanded,” said one. “Unfortunately, this is against the ANC constitution, which says a PEC can be disbanded only when it’s not performing its functions.”

Said another: “Maybe the dissolution must happen so that PEC members can go back to the branches as ordinary ANC members and campaign for another victory at the next conference.”

If the ANC disbands the PEC, another conference will have to be convened within 90 days to elect new provincial leaders.

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice. Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge

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