Masualle to reshuffle Eastern Cape PEC but tensions remain

Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle this week finally yielded to pressure to reshuffle his provincial executive committee (PEC) after being ousted at the chaotic ANC provincial conference which took place last year.

But tensions between factions loyal to the premier and those supporting the new leadership are now threatening to affect the ANC’s 2019 election campaign.

READ MORE: Embattled Eastern Cape premier is safe – for now

Masualle and the PEC — led by chairperson Oscar Mabuyane — met with secretary general Ace Magashule at Luthuli House in Johannesburg, where the premier agreed to remove his allies from his cabinet.

But Masualle’s supporters in the province — the Joe Gqabi, Amathole and Nelson Mandela Bay regions — have questioned the motives behind this decision.

“It was a long time coming, but as to whether it is based on performance or whether it is a question of getting rid of those that they didn’t agree with in conference, we don’t know,” Joe Gqabi regional secretary Mfundo Bongela said.

Masualle lost power when he did not contest the vote because his supporters were chased out of the conference during a brawl.

The reshuffle was part of a deal that would see Masualle keep his job as premier, while a scathing report by ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Sbu Ndebele on the validity of the provincial conference was shelved by the NEC.

READ MORE: ANC’s  ‘chief disrupter’ unbowed

In March, the NEC decided to ignore recommendations that the Eastern Cape PEC be dissolved and the conference re-run due to the violence.

Insiders say this is because such a decision would have implications on the ANC’s national conference at Nasrec, where the Eastern Cape PEC took part in the vote for the current leadership.

Sarah Baartman regional secretary Scara Njadayi said the reshuffle should not have been delayed and questioned Masualle’s hesitation to implement the new leadership’s decision.

“The premier did the same in 2009, after the conference when he came in. They reshuffled and took people out and there was no issue about that. He is supposed to understand it. It’s not a reshuffling based on a witch hunt, it’s based on performance and service delivery,” Njadayi said.

His region supported Mabuyane ahead of the conference. It has 243 voting districts and has already set up election structures. But in regions such as Joe Gqabi tensions between factions have heightened, Bongela said.

READ MORE: Mabuyane’s ‘hostile takeover’ train halted in its tracks

The ANC’s provincial office has recalled government officials including mayors in regions that opposed them.

“You can see those in power are wielding authority by virtue of office, we are supposed to launch sub regions but because of dynamics that is delayed.”

Bongela said Magashule and his team have yet to visit the province to meet with regions who walked out of the conference.

“What is important is that everyone would want to see a successful campaign, but there seems to be obstacles towards that such as the long awaited visit of the [secretariat] so that we engage them directly.”

The branches in Joe Gqabi and regions such as Amathole and Nelson Mandela Bay want an explanation for the NEC’s decision not to implement Ndebele’s report. Bongela said this was expected when the NEC visits the branches.

“Branches want that meeting as in yesterday, because there have been developments which also affect them.”

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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