The ANC achieved its 50-50 of gender balance when it nominated four women and four men to head the provincial governments it controls.
Gauteng housing minister Nomvula Mokonyane was appointed Gauteng premier on Thursday as the ruling party showed that it was serious about women empowerment. In another surprise announcement Eastern Cape legislature speaker Noxolo Kieviet was announced as premier. Kieviet won over more prominent politicians such as acting premier Mbulelo Sogoni and veteran politician Mcebisi Jonas.
In the North West, Luthuli House overlooked all the big names and settled for Maureen Modiselle, who is the provincial minister for finance.
Those who did not make it include provincial chairperson Nono Maloyi and former premier Edna Molewa.
In the Northern Cape the party chose Bo Karoo district municipality executive mayor Hazel Jenkins. A teacher by profession, she beat favourite John Block to the post. Jenkins has served two terms as deputy chairperson of the South African Local Government Association.
Mokonyane came into the picture late, just before the announcement as it had been generally assumed that Paul Mashatile, who had been acting for six months, would hold on to the post.
Mashatile became premier after Mbhazima Shilowa resigned in protest at the treatment of former president Thabo Mbeki to join the Congress of the People. Mashatile is earmarked for a national post.
‘The question of two centres of powers would have meant that we have nine men and as a leading organisation it would have been a wrong situation to be in. Women and their capabilities must be recognised,” said ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe.
Free State chair Ace Magashule, Limpopo chair Cassel Mathale, Mpumalanga chair David ‘DD” Mabuza and KwaZulu-Natal chair Zweli Mkhize were appointed as premiers of their respective provinces.
The ANC’s process to appoint premiers in eight of the country’s nine provinces was threatening the unity of the ANC under Jacob Zuma’s leadership.
Tensions within the ANC reached boiling points this week, as provincial structures clashed with Luthuli House over the appointment of premiers.
The ANC’s alliance partners — Cosatu and the SACP, which supported Zuma throughout his political and legal troubles — have publicly accused the ANC of deliberately sidelining leftist leaders in some provinces when selecting premier candidates.
What appeared to complicate matters for the ANC was the 50-50 gender policy and the party’s position taken during the Polokwane conference that party chairpersons should automatically become premiers to avoid two centres of power.
With all ANC provincial structures headed by men, Luthuli House was under pressure to comply with the 50-50 gender parity by deploying women premiers in some provinces. However, some ANC members see this as strategy by ANC officials to deal with comrades not favoured by Zuma’s core group within the ANC.
‘Take the issue of Gauteng premier Mashatile for instance. Until last week’s election, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would be the obvious choice for the ANC as the Gauteng premier candidate. Now Mokonyane has suddenly been brought to the picture. Why?” asked one ANC leader.
An ANC insider said that ANC officials’ decision to remove Mashatile from the provincial government was partly because he was seen as an outsider by the Zuma’s core group.
Mashatile was one of the ANC leaders who supported ANC executive member and businessman Tokyo Sexwale to take over as ANC president prior to the party’s 2007 conference. He only threw his wait behind Zuma after Sexwale withdrew from the contest.