The ANC’s top six officials are divided on a candidate to replace North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, amid mounting public pressure for the party to take decisive action against him.
Mahumapelo withdrew his resignation on Wednesday after the ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC) in North West advised him against stepping down. Instead, the embattled premier said the PEC had decided that he should take a leave of absence, with finance MEC Wendy Nelson stepping in as acting premier.
ANC insiders told the Mail & Guardian this week that the party’s top six officials have different candidates in mind to replace Mahumapelo.
ANC deputy president David Mabuza is said to prefer the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise; party secretary general Ace Magashule apparently supports the PEC’s and Mahumapelo’s choice, Johannes Tselapedi. ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is said to have agreed with Mahumapelo when they met last week that Tselapedi would take the reins while corruption allegations against the premier are probed, but this was rejected by Ramaphosa’s supporters.
ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe has told those close to him that he wanted member of the provincial legislature Mmaphefo Matsemela to take over as the province’s number one citizen.
The anti-Mahumapelo faction in the province — including former ANC provincial chair China Dodovu, former NEC member Philly Mapulane and South African Communist Party provincial chair Madoda Sambatha — are pushing for provincial veterans’ league leader Zakes Tolo to take over from Mahumapelo.
“CR [Ramaphosa] had agreed that Tselapedi will replace Mahumapelo, but the issue was who should resign from the legislature [to enable him to come in] because Tselapedi is not a member of the legislature,” said an ANC national executive committee (NEC) member.
“It was suggested that ANC MPL Ndleleni Duma should resign due to ill health to make way for Tselapedi, but he refused. It was then that Mahumapelo volunteered to resign, but the PEC reversed his decision after they realised some of the national leaders were pushing for Zakes Tolo,” the NEC member added.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said suggestions that there were differences among the top six officials were part of the ongoing project to undermine the party’s unity. He said the ANC was focusing on strengthening its election machinery ahead of next year’s crucial general elections.
Meanwhile, ANC insiders told the M&G this week that supporters of former president Jacob Zuma in North West, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were threatening to boycott the party’s election campaign if Ramaphosa supporters did not stop “purging” those who supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the position of ANC president in December.
ANC head of elections and campaigning Fikile Mbalula said he was aware of the threats but dismissed suggestions that Ramaphosa supporters were getting rid of those who had backed Dlamini-Zuma.
“These are issues that are peddled out there, mobilising members around the notion of being purged. But we need to confront those issues as an organisation. If there are people who have the agenda of purging people, then they have not succeeded,” said Mbalula.
He pointed to his own removal from Cabinet, which he did not regard as a purge, as an example. Mbalula said that some problems had existed long before Ramaphosa’s election, especially in North West, and that people’s frustrations there had led to rebellion in some quarters.
“As we speak now, issues of KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] are being processed … It’s a very difficult province. Its challenges did not start now, post-Nasrec. We have to deal with these issues by engaging with comrades.”
Mbalula lambasted members of the North West PEC for reversing Mahumapelo’s decision to resign.
“That’s absolute anarchy. They [the PEC] must engage with the national leadership of the ANC, not through press conferences, because democratic centralism holds …Supra himself is being challenged and accused of purging comrades. We know for a fact that there are a lot of comrades who find themselves out on the streets in North West, and they have complained about that,” said Mbalula. He said Mahumapelo needed to subject himself to the decision of the organisation.
“I did not like the fact that I was told to leave Cabinet to go to Luthuli House, but I love my organisation more than the position.” He said former presidents Zuma and Thabo Mbeki had not finished their terms because “decisions had to be taken and comrades had to comply”. — Additional reporting by Thanduxolo Jika