Editorial: ‘Black Jesus’ falls from grace

It’s easy to feel a sense of smugness about the fall of the “Black Jesus”, Supra Mahumapelo. In many ways, the ANC national working committee’s decision to recall the embattled premier is a victory for South Africa. It is a triumph for the people he has mowed down in his quest to remain powerful. And it is certainly a triumph for the people campaigning against his legacy of maladministration and alleged corruption.

It is also a victory for President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose slim victory at the ANC’s elective conference in December places him in peril of being overthrown. It is a sign that Ramaphosa and his faction have the advantage in the workings of the ANC.

And, if we were to reduce Mahumapelo’s recall into a narrative of good versus evil, then, yes, the good outweighs the evil.

Mahumapelo is an example of how power and influence are used at the cost of citizens. For many North West residents living in the shadows of Mahumapelo’s power trip, there has been little respite from his chokehold over the public service.

So, yes, score one for the good guys.

But little in life, or in politics, is as simple as a story of good versus bad.

This week, doctors were hounded out of hospitals by protesters who continued to hold public health services hostage in their battle against Mahumapelo. In a letter published on the Mail & Guardian website, some of these doctors have rightly pointed out that they are being prevented from delivering the constitutional rights of South Africans.

And, when an ill woman has to be taken home from hospital in a wheelbarrow after being refused care, as the M&G reported two weeks ago, then we must also pause to consider the tactics to remove Mahumapelo.

At least one person died, shops were looted and hospitals were shut down as the protest spread from Mahikeng to Klerksdorp, and beyond.

Over and over again, North West residents spoke of their dissatisfaction with Mahumapelo. They cited a culture of corruption, greed and intransigence, which came at the cost of the wellbeing of those in the province.

So a change is well overdue.

It is our ardent hope that a premier who will prioritise service delivery and a clean administration will emerge from this.

History, however, suggests otherwise. North West, like Mpumalanga, as we report in this week’s paper, is a stage for the insidious war for power in the ANC. And it’s not likely that the most capable, honourable politician will emerge from the debris.

It will be the most street-smart politician with the best access to the ascendant power in Luthuli House, however good or evil that person might be.

Mahumapelo knows how this game is played. He has been the beneficiary of previous attempts by the ANC’s national structures to intervene in the morass of its North West provincial structure.

That landed us with the Black Jesus. And that left us in need of deliverance.

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