ANC's premier headache

Now that the battle to force ANC president Jacob Zuma into the Union Buildings has been won, the delicate balancing act of finding leaders to unify ANC factions in the country’s nine provinces is the party’s biggest headache.

Part of the conundrum revolves around gender. Another, around a resolution passed at the Polokwane conference that dictates there should be a single centre of power, with the president of the country and the president of the ANC being the same person.

It also calls for provincial leaders to recommend three names to the national executive committee (NEC) for consideration when the NEC decides on premiers.

But provincial leaders are also bound by a Polokwane resolution requiring 50-50 gender representation when choosing candidates. In some provinces the “national question” (a euphemism for race) must also be considered.

The ANC Women’s League wants four of the nine premiers to be women. But many provincial party bosses see the situation differently.

Polokwane did not specify how the principle of a single power centre should be applied, but provincial leaders are using it to push for party chairs who are generally male.

Wannabe premiers in three provinces—previously sidelined for political reasons—have been waiting in the wings for years. To prevent a recurrence of the sidelining the Free State party bosses this year handed the NEC just one name, that of provincial chairperson Ace Magashule (male).

They were following events in Limpopo, where a provincial ANC conference resolution last year stipulated that only provincial chairperson Cassel Mathale could become premier.

In the Northern Cape the ANC’s provincial deputy chairperson, Kenny Mmoiemang, and the mayor of Pixley ka Seme region, Hazel Jenkins, appear on the list of three. But party chiefs believe controversial chairperson John Block (another male) “now deserves a chance to show his leadership in governance”, one leader told the Mail & Guardian this week.

In Gauteng premier Paul Mashatile had been waiting for years to take over and eventually grabbed the premiership when Mbhazima Shilowa quit the ANC to join Cope.

Although the Gauteng list also includes deputy ANC chairperson Nomvula Mokonyane (female) and Mandla Nkomfe (male)—who took over from Mashatile as provincial finance minister—Mashatile is the party’s candidate of choice for Gauteng.

The most intense debate has taken place in the Eastern Cape, where Phumullo Masualle has been punted as favourite after narrowly missing out last year. He was, however, left off the list sent to Luthuli House, which includes current premier Mbulelo Sogoni and Mcebisi Jonas, a former provincial leader co-opted to the provincial executive committee (PEC) after defections to Cope. The only female on the list is a virtual unknown and rank outsider, provincial legislature speaker Noxolo Kiviet.

In the Western Cape - where the ANC is likely to lose the provincial election—a decision about the party’s premier candidate may be academic.

The two candidates are Mcebisi Skwatsha—effectively sidelined by national leaders when it became clear that his leadership was damaging the ANC’s fragile position in the province - and current premier Lynne Brown.

Skwatsha’s supporters are advancing the single-power-centre principle to ensure their man gets the job.

In contrast, in the North West where provincial chairperson Nono Maloyi (male) tops the list, party leaders favour two centres of power.

Said one: “ANC provincial leaders believe there’s much better expression in PEC meetings when the chairperson is not the premier. It prevents fear of victimisation when people do not agree on issues. Remember some PEC members are also provincial ministers.”

Mbeki’s ghost still hangs heavily over the political landscape in North West. Deputy health minister Dr Molefi Sefularo, a known Mbeki supporter, has been included on the PEC list but will probably not find favour with national leaders.

A PEC member, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The Zuma camp would monitor him better if he’s in Cabinet - preferably in a deputy minister’s position, where he would report to one of them. He could be used to send the message that not all Mbeki people have been purged.”

The only female on the North West list is ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise. But she will have to vacate her full-time position at Luthuli House to take up the premiership.

In KwaZulu-Natal the premiership is Zweli Mkhize’s for the taking, but as Zuma’s close confidant, he could be destined for the national Cabinet.

In this province Ina Cronje (female) is definitely in the running. Cronje is a long-standing ANC provincial leader who is close to Mkhize and is placed second on the party’s provincial list. The third name listed is that of provincial secretary Senzo Mchunu (male).

In Mpumalanga another male, chairperson David “DD” Mabuza, is also likely to take the top job. Former Nelspruit mayor Regina Mhaule (female) appears among the province’s preferred trio, with provincial public works minister Madala Masuku—but he is considered an outsider.

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.
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