A R176-million jobs for youth programme has pitted the ANC leadership in North West against colleagues in the provincial government ahead of this year's election, in the latest example of a two-centres-of-power struggle.
The provincial leadership of Supra Mahumapelo has claimed that taxpayers' money is being abused in the party's name. The row could increase the already palpable tension between the government of Premier Thandi Modise and Mahumapelo's ANC provincial leadership.
Modise is awaiting the report of an investigation into how a new luxury German sedan was bought for her official use in December despite Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's call for austerity measures in government. This is the second vehicle bought for Modise's official use since she took office in December 2010.
It has now emerged that the ANC's top five officials in the province have decided to institute an investigation into the jobs project.
ANC North West provincial secretary Dakota Legoete told the Mail & Guardian that the ANC had received lots of complaints from both its supporters and other members of the public about "selective appointments" amid claims the programme was being used to campaign for a particular faction in the party.
"We're doing this investigation so that when we act against our deployees in government we've got all the information," Legoete said.
North West finance MEC Paul Sebego announced the project in November last year, saying it would provide temporary jobs for young people on a one-year contract.
The project aims to provide temporary work such as street cleaning for 20 000 youth, but questions have been raised about how the beneficiaries were selected.
Some ANC councillors compiled lists of names and government officials collected these from the offices of selected mayors. "The mayors' offices were our entry point," said a government employee involved in monitoring the implementation of the programme.
"We don't know how the people were chosen, but we were sent to collect names from the mayors. We know this is meant to score political points. It's a strategy to win elections," the employee said.
The communication manager at the provincial finance department, Tshidi Matlou, however, said the department followed an "inclusive approach" and used several databases of the unemployed to select beneficiaries.
The R176-million was distributed among six departments: economic development; environment; conservation and tourism; public works; roads and transport; social development; sport, arts and culture; education; agriculture and rural development.
An ANC provincial leader who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to speak for the party said "some of our leaders tried to discourage the MEC for economic development [Motlalepula Rosho] from continuing with the programme, but she ignored us".
"We want to know why such things are being done in the ANC's name. Why is it that some councillors are involved and others are not? It's also just some mayors who are part of this thing. We asked the MEC what criteria were used to select beneficiaries and she ignored us."
When Sebego announced that the government would introduce the project, the Democratic Alliance cried foul, branding it pure electioneering.
The rise of the former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is said to be one of the reasons why the ANC provincial government is trying hard to lure more young people with temporary jobs.
The latest Ipsos Markinor survey suggests that the EFF could be the official opposition in the North West after this year's election, with 12.7% of the vote.
"If this was meant to help the ANC against [the] EFF it shouldn't have been done the way it is," said an ANC provincial leader.
ANC leaders aligned to Mahumapelo claim the jobs for youth programme is a factional attempt that will eventually destabilise the party in the province.
"[The provincial government] is investing in instability. When they end those contracts in November people are going to fight and destabilise the province," an ANC leader warned. He claimed the majority of beneficiaries of the project were in fact delegates on the slate that opposed the current ANC leadership at last year's provincial general council, where two of the top five positions were to be filled.
Matlou said the economic development department has hired 2 992 people across the province through "environmental services programmes".
Although the economic development department did not respond to the M&G's questions, officials there said beneficiaries cleaned streets and pruned trees, among other work.
On why the department continued to implement the programme, despite the ANC's provincial leadership's concerns about its factional nature, Matlou said: "Given the unemployment rate of the province and the positive benefits from the programme, government deemed it necessary to implement (it) …. to support the expansion of Expanded Public Works Programme."
The North West's unemployment rate stood at 26.6% in the last quarter of 2013.