Don't fight to the death, Mbete warns

ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete has warned delegates at the Gauteng ANC’s conference “not to destroy each other” and to be willing to see merit in rival candidates with ability.

Addressing the party conference in Tshwane on Thursday, Mbete was clearly referring to the brutal leadership struggle between current Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and provincial ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile.

Mokonyane looks set to be a lame-duck premier, with early indications being that her bid for the party chairmanship has failed—she was not nominated by any of Gauteng’s six regions.

Mbete told delegates: “We don’t need these tensions for the work we do—now people don’t talk to each other after conferences.

“I disagree with the culture of slates [lists] because this creates a situation where there is a preferred list for certain individuals. You can’t see capable individuals who are not on your preferred list. Why do we do this? There is nothing wrong with lobbying—but we should not destroy each other.”

Mbete’s warning was echoed by provincial secretary David Makhura in his organisational report, which raised concerns about the increasing tendency of ANC members to fight for party positions.

This was having a negative impact on the functioning of government and municipalities, Makhura said.

A typical example of how the infighting undermined service delivery was the Ekurhuleni region, which had been fractured into several groupings, he said.

“In this regard there is always a tendency to think that the way to correct problems in the organisation and council is by removing cadres or calling for early conferences.”

Makhura noted that service provision was visibly failing to take place across the Ekurhuleni metro, while the administration was embroiled in political conflicts rather than focusing on serving communities.

With Mashatile set to retain the Gauteng ANC leadership, insiders in his campaign warned that Mokonyane will now face tough oversight from the party’s provincial executive committee (PEC).

Mokonyane stands accused of having an “antagonistic” attitude towards the PEC since becoming premier.

“She doesn’t consult; she just does things and then we hear about it afterwards.
And we hear the things she intends to do [in government] but we can’t work on rumours,” a PEC member told the Mail & Guardian.

Reports are expected to be tabled in the provincial legislature that will underline Mokonyane’s failures during her first year in office.

“Our comrades in the legislature will pick up on these things and table it with us. There will be a new robustness there. She’s had a year to prove herself and now she has to account.”

Mokonyane failed to secure a single regional nomination for the position of provincial party chair, with even her home region, the West Rand, rejecting her.

Her decision this week to release a report pointing a finger at Ignatius Jacobs, head of the planning commission in her office, and Sibusiso Buthelezi, head of the Gauteng finance department, which Mashatile once led, seems to have won her more enemies than friends.

Even the DA accused Mokonyane of releasing the report for narrow political ends, and delegates at the provincial conference were ­suspicious of her timing.

“It even implicates Nash [Ignatius Jacobs], who is her chief lobbyist,” an insider said. Another explained that Mashatile’s support is rooted in fears of a purge by Mokonyane.

“With 2011 [local government elections coming up], there is a culture of fear among mayors—she’s fighting with almost every mayor in the province and they’re scared she’ll get rid of them. They’re regional chairpersons in the ANC, so this vote for Paul [Mashatile] is a vote for their political future.”

One of his campaigners said that Mashatile has no interest in the provincial premiership following rumours that he could be made a full minister after the planned Cabinet reshuffle. He is currently deputy arts minister.

“He won’t take back the premiership. Even if we sit and discuss a possible successor to Nomvula, there will be other comrades suited for the job. Being premier was not easy for him; he was there for only six months. What can you do in six months?” the campaigner said.

Mokonyane’s decision to contest provincial elections while being a national executive committee member and being chosen by this body as premier also riled her detractors.

“It’s as if she wants a referendum on her premiership,” said one. “She wants confirmation from ANC branches, but now she’s failing.”



Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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