The election to the North West ANC's top leadership of two officials allied to provincial chair Supra Mahumapelo opens up an opportunity for the faction-riven province to get its act together ahead of challenges that include reclaiming the Tlokwe municipality from the Democratic Alliance.
New provincial secretary Dakota Legoete, treasurer Suzan Tsebe and four additional provincial executive committee members – Hoffman Galeng, Rustenburg mayor Mpho Khunou, Wendy Nelson and Solly Malete – all add numbers to the pro-Mahumapelo faction.
Legoete, now holding a crucial position in the province with full-time administrative responsibilities, beat Gordon Kegakilwe, who has been acting in the position for about a year, to the post. Kegakilwe fell out with Mahumapelo a few months ago.
"If Kegakilwe was elected, we were going to have bigger problems than we had with Kabelo [Mataboge, former provincial secretary]. Things are going to be run better now that the chair and secretary agree," said a provincial executive committee member aligned to Mahumapelo.
But there is doubt among those in the anti-Mahumapelo faction, who fear that the winners will purge those who disagree with them.
"This is the beginning of the end for many," said a provincial executive committee member in Kegakilwe's faction. "The politics of purging will come into play."
Those opposed to Mahumapelo accuse him of wanting to be in control of the provincial executive committee through the top officials and additional members.
"You'll never get this province right," said a provincial executive committee member. "For those of us who've been fighting this battle for long now, this is not the end. They'll purge, but we won't keep quiet."
There is already anxiety about how long Kegakilwe will hold on to his deputy secretary position.
Acting chief whip Khoza Pelele is expected to brief the provincial executive committee on allegations of abusing state funds levelled against Kegakilwe, something that could happen as soon as Monday.
Pelele has been holding the fort for Kegakilwe at the provincial legislature while the deputy secretary was fulfilling party duties at Mphekwa House, the ANC's North West office, but has ordered an investigation into Kegakilwe's alleged abuse of state funds.
One of the allegations is that Kegakilwe's office spent hundreds of thousands of rands of state money to fund events and travel expenses for the provincial ANC, the ANC Women's League and student organisations Sasco and Cosas. So far, the women's league and Sasco have denied receiving money or services.
The Mail & Guardian has seen a forensic report by SizweNtsalubaGobodo auditors, alleging that Kegakilwe pretended to pay R40 000 of state funds to sponsor a women's league trip to Durban, but instead took R35 000 of the money for himself and gave the remaining R5 000 to a businessman who helped create an invoice for the payment.
Eyes on the prize
The revamped provincial executive committee's biggest challenge is reclaiming control of the Potchefstroom-based Tlokwe municipal council from the coalition of opposition parties led by the DA when six by-elections are held on December 11.
With two senior ANC leaders, Tlokwe chief whip Legoete and former mayor Maphetle Maphetle (now working as a manager in the legislature), out of the municipality, the ANC will need to deploy campaigners with whom voters will identify.
A provincial executive committee member said removing Maphetle from Tlokwe was done to appease voters, who are against his return as mayor.
"We wanted to show that he's not going to be our mayoral candidate. The question about the ANC insisting on him as a mayor had to be killed," the committee member said.
Provincial spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said the ANC is well on track to win back Tlokwe and that the provincial executive committee is running the campaign with confidence.
"We don't see any train smash in our ability to reclaim Tlokwe. We have full confidence in our candidates, who had already prepared in September, when these by-elections were postponed," he said.
The ANC wants to win Tlokwe because the party wants to restore the mandate it received from the 2011 local government elections, said Mnisi. "For those of us who've been fighting this battle for long, this is not the end. They'll purge, but we won't keep quiet"