/ 4 November 2011

Disunity threatens bid to oust Cassel Mathale

Differences about leadership preferences are threatening the unity of a coalition formed to oust Cassel Mathale, Limpopo’s premier and the ANC’s provincial chairperson, a few weeks before the party’s provincial conference in December.

At issue is a debate over whether the deputy arts and culture minister, Joe Phaahla, or former ANC provincial executive committee member Joe Mathebula should stand against Mathale for the position of provincial ANC chairperson.

Another area of contention is the position of provincial secretary, with some members of the coalition pushing for the retention of Joe Maswanganyi and others saying he should step down because he has failed to unite the party in the province during his term of office.

The coalition calling for a leadership change in the ANC in the province includes the provincial structures of trade union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP). The two organisations have been vocal in their call for Mathale to step down as premier, accusing him of presiding over a corrupt administration.

Those in the coalition who do not want Maswanganyi are pushing for Cosatu provincial secretary Dan Sebabi to take over as ANC secretary.

The former ANC Youth League chairperson in Limpopo, Lehlogonolo Masoga, is being touted as deputy secretary general and provincial health minister Dikeledi Magadzi as treasurer.

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is believed to be a close ally of Mathale.

Mathebula, who has insisted that there must be an ANC leadership change in Limpopo, confirmed that the coalition was split between him and Phaahla.

“There are those who say I should be chair and others want Phaahla. What I can say is that the democratic process should take place,” said Mathebula. Phaahla was not available for comment.

Mathale’s supporters want him and his deputy, Dickson Masemola, to retain their positions. The group is pushing for former SACP provincial secretary and provincial local government minister Soviet Lekganyane to be ANC provincial secretary and provincial transport minister Pinkie Kekana to be treasurer.

Voting rights
Although Cosatu and the SACP do not have voting rights in the ANC, leaders of the two organisations said they were lobbying their members who doubled as ANC members not to support Mathale and his provincial executive.

“We won’t support anyone who smells of corruption. The premier must go. We made demands in the past and he never attended to our interests. [As workers] our interest in government is not taken seriously. In the past two years we never had a session with Mathale, not even an alliance summit,” said Sebabi.

“Our members will not go with the current leadership. The huge turnout for the recent anti-corruption march to the premier’s office is a clear indication that the people of Limpopo are tired [of corrupt leaders].”

SACP interim provincial secretary Gilbert Kganyago said the party’s provincial working committee would meet on Friday to discuss the kind of leadership that should emerge during the conference.

“We are going to look at the principle of what constitutes a good leadership collective. We will not rally behind individuals, but principles. We are concerned that we don’t have a leadership that appreciates the significance of the alliance,” said Kganyago.

Limpopo ANC spokesperson David Masondo warned Cosatu and the SACP not to interfere in the affairs of the ANC.

“The election of leaders is the sole business of the ANC. At no stage did the ANC seek to prescribe to Cosatu and the SACP who they should elect. They should respect the autonomy of the ANC,” he said.

Masondo also dismissed claims by Cosatu and the SACP that Mathale was presiding over a corrupt administration.

“There is no evidence that shows that the current administration is corrupt. For the first time since 1994, three departments achieved clean audits. In instances where there was corruption the provincial government acted.

“We recently dismissed 40 officials and blacklisted more than 20 ­companies for poor performance,” said Masondo.

He referred to the award given to the head of the local government department in Limpopo, Clifford Motsepe, for best public servant in South Africa as a reflection of Mathale’s commitment to building a strong administration.

Some in the ANC view the attempt to remove Mathale as a proxy war for the ANC leadership battle in 2012.

Mathale and Malema are seen as drivers for those who want President Jacob Zuma to be replaced by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, and secretary general Gwede Mantashe to be replaced by Fikile Mbalula.