As pressure increases on Cyril Ramaphosa to act against embattled North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, the president is powerless to do much except implement the party’s internal processes, ANC national executive committee (NEC) members said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, ANC insiders have told the Mail & Guardian that the premier believes his life is in danger in an orchestrated political plot.
Speaking to the M&G hours before the expiry of a 24-hour ultimatum given to the president by the Revolutionary Council, the group that has led protests in North West, NEC members Zizi Kodwa and Obed Bapela said only the NEC, and not Ramaphosa, could remove the premier from office.
The Revolutionary Council, however, has threatened to bring the province to its knees if Ramaphosa fails to act against Mahumapelo. Kodwa, who is also head of the ANC presidency’s office, said there was little Ramaphosa could do.
Even outside the ambit of the ANC and within the apparatus of the state, the Constitution dictates that premiers are elected by provincial legislatures. Candidates for the position are nominated by their respective political parties.
“The president and/or NWC [ANC national working committee] doesn’t [have] powers to appoint or fire premiers. They are appointed by the NEC and the NEC only,” Kodwa told the M&G by SMS on Wednesday.
Kodwa’s sentiments were echoed by Bapela, who is the ANC’s NEC deployee in North West province. “ANC deploys and ANC recalls. So it is the ANC [that will recall the premiers]. It has always been like that,” said Bapela.
He revealed that the ANC has ordered Mahumapelo to appear before the party’s top six officials ahead of the NEC meeting on May 26 and 27 or any special NEC before then. He will be asked to explain his earlier inaction against the provincial health head after the department paid an advance of R30‑million to a Gupta-linked company, Mediosa, to operate mobile clinics in the province.
Senior party leaders met current and former North West leaders at Luthuli House on Tuesday in a bid to find a lasting solution to the impasse. Those who attended the meeting included Mahumapelo, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and NEC members Edna Molewa, Bapela, Senzo Mchunu, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule and Dakota Legoete. Also present was former North West deputy ANC chairperson China Dodovu.
The meeting is said to have become heated after Mahumapelo claimed that there had been attempts on his life, adding that embittered ANC comrades fighting for economic resources and positions were behind the attacks on his office.
According to insiders, Mahumapelo repeated his allegation of collusion between his detractors in the province and the Economic Freedom Fighters, resulting in the motion of no confidence that was postponed last week.
“He said this was a phenomenon called ‘post-Nasrec economic volcano’, which is erupting. [He said] the burning of buildings is engineered to dissolve the PEC [provincial executive committee], saying at the centre [of this] was a fight for economic resources. Supra claimed that there are attempts to kill him,” said an ANC insider who attended the meeting.
The insider said Mahumapelo told the meeting that the Revolutionary Council was trying to project him as corrupt and had used druglords and prison inmates to attack him.
The acting ANC secretary in North West, Susan Dantjie, told the meeting that Mahumapelo’s opponents did not want to go to the provincial elective conference because they did not have enough branch support. She also claimed that the problem was caused by people “who want deployment and resources”, according to the ANC insider.
Molewa, meanwhile, accused the media and opposition parties of agitating for Mahumapelo’s removal. “She said it was not a good thing for Mahumapelo to be removed because it would create problems,” said the source.
Bapela said that, when Mahumapelo appears before the ANC’s top six, the party would also try to establish whether his association with the controversial Gupta family had involvedany criminality.
“Who has never gone to the Guptas? Does that association [between Mahumapelo and the Guptas] involve criminality or corruption? Or it was an association that was innocent, like many other associations?” Bapela asked.
He said if there was wrongdoing, “that’s where we need to go in”.
Bapela’s comments follow a remarkable confession by ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine, who has said that Mahumapelo introduced him to the Guptas.
“I was taken there, comrades … in the first place, I was not supposed to go there [to the Guptas]. I was not taken by [Jacob] Zuma. The person who took me there was Supra Obakeng Mahumapelo,” Maine is reported to have said.
Now, as Mahumapelo’s associations come under scrutiny, Bapela said the ANC top six would also ask the premier to explain payments to private ambulance companies contracted by the provincial health department, which reportedly “parked” almost 40 new state ambulances to enable private ambulance owners to make more money.
“Sometimes they [Mahumapelo’s detractors] say he failed to act [against government officials]. He has protected certain HODs [heads of department]. Therefore, by virtue of not acting, it means he is associated with the criminality. We have to weigh that particular issue and say: ‘What’s your involvement here, premier?’” said Bapela.
He added: “The premier must go and say what explanation he has on all these allegations. There is a team already that is meeting with the premier to give that explanation at the top level of the ANC.”
He said Mahumapelo should disclose whether his administration had diverted funds meant for HIV programmes to procure ambulances. “If that has happened, then there is wrongdoing,” said Bapela.
He said Mahumapelo would also have to explain his government’s alleged abuse of supply chain management regulations under the Municipal Finance Management Act.
“There is no proper explanation, so the premier as head of government is currently being subjected to give answers on this issue to the highest level of the organisation so that we deduce facts from allegations,” he said.
Bapela insisted, however, that the ANC was not ignoring the protests that have gripped the province. “We are not undermining the anger [of communities in North West] … Obviously, the people are correct in saying there are no services on the ground and when you move to certain parts of North West, that’s what you get. That’s what we see and that’s what they have been feeling all these years,” said Bapela.