Axe hangs over North West PEC

Supra Mahumapelo, flanked by ANC secretary general Ace Magashule (left) and party spokesperson Pule Mabe, announces his resignation as premier of North West. (Felix Dlangamandla/ Gallo Images)

Supra Mahumapelo, flanked by ANC secretary general Ace Magashule (left) and party spokesperson Pule Mabe, announces his resignation as premier of North West. (Felix Dlangamandla/ Gallo Images)

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s supporters are expected to push for the disbandment of the ANC’s North West provincial executive committee (PEC) led by Supra Mahumapelo when the national executive committee (NEC) meets this weekend.

On Wednesday, Mahumapelo announced his resignation as North West premier after weeks of violent protests against his leadership. He thanked the ANC for allowing him to go on “early retirement” and said he didn’t expect the party to compensate him with another position.

But his detractors are not convinced by the supposed nobility of his resignation and believe he stepped down to avoid being recalled by the NEC, in line with a recommendation by the national working committee (NWC).

His resignation is also seen as an attempt to avoid the full wrath of the NEC being unleashed on him and the PEC, which would threaten his position as ANC provincial chairperson.

But two NWC members said a decision to dissolve the PEC, which had openly defied the party, at this weekend’s meeting was inevitable.

Three weeks ago the NWC recommended that Mahumapelo either resign or be recalled. He later said he would resign after reaching an agreement with Ramaphosa.
But the PEC rejected Mahumapelo’s resignation and he announced that he would instead go on a sabbatical until his matter was discussed by the NEC.

The anti-Ramaphosa group in the NEC will probably challenge the disbandment of the North West PEC by arguing that it is an attempt to remove those who don’t support the president. They are likely to argue that the party cannot push for the abrupt removal of leaders every time some members express unhappiness.

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule made this point during Mahumapelo’s resignation address, saying the same treatment that would be afforded to the president must apply to leaders in lower structures.

“Mahumapelo is still chair of the province because he was elected by structures of the ANC in that province,” Magashule said. “If you are not happy, wait for the next time. Wait for the next conference. Even if you are not happy [with] the fact that comrade Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected president, wait until five years.”

The Mahumapelo-led PEC is expected to submit three names to the NEC for it to choose a new premier. But that premier is likely to serve in a ceremonial role, given the announcement by national government on Thursday that it would place five departments, including the office of the premier, under full administration. The other departments to be put under national government control are health, education, public works and community safety.

The remaining seven provincial departments have been ordered to fulfil their obligations or also face being placed under administration.

It is also likely that Ramaphosa’s detractors will argue against the push for the disbandment of the Eastern Cape PEC. A report by NEC member Sbu Ndebele recommended that the committee nullify the results of last year’s Eastern Cape elective conference. The NEC did not accept the report’s recommendations.

Another NWC member sympathetic to Ramaphosa said the Eastern Cape issues were different and the NEC was not forced to abide by the recommendations of the Ndebele report. “Just because recommendations were made doesn’t mean we have to implement them, especially if we don’t agree with them.”

The basis of the report’s recommendations was that the conference should not have been allowed to resume because of the unhappiness expressed by some members. “That would mean every time people are unhappy things have to stop? It can’t be,” the source said.

The ongoing political killings in KwaZulu-Natal and the proposal by the provincial task team (PTT) that the province’s elective conference be rerun next weekend are also due to be discussed at the NEC’s meeting this weekend.

Five regions have held conferences, with two more — Harry Gwala and Abaqulusi — to meet this weekend. The two outstanding regions, Moses Mabhida and Lower South Coast, may send branch delegates to the provincial conference and not regional executive committee delegates, because they will not have held elective meetings by the time it sits.

Two regions, Ukahlamaba and eThekwini, are still within their terms of office and do not need to hold elective conferences.

The PTT, headed by convener Mike Mabuyakhulu and co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala, has recommended June  1 as the date for the KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference and has accepted the outcome of the five regional conferences, four of which have been won by the Zikalala-led camp, which backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for president at the ANC national conference in December.

A source in the Ramaphosa camp said: “The way things look now are that it is clear that the Sihle-led forces will emerge victorious at conference.”

He said the Mabuyakhulu-led faction had not been able to mobilise properly in the short time since the PTT’s delayed appointment in January. But the faction had made a good showing in the Far North and eMalahleni and had support on the Lower South Coast, which would translate into a divided PEC.

“The Sihle [Zikalala] faction will win but not outright, so there will be contradictions in the PEC elected at conference,’’ he said.

The new committee would probably be more in step with the party’s national decisions and more supportive of Ramaphosa’s leadership.

“The focus will be on elections and the fact that the premier, who will choose the provincial Cabinet, will be appointed by the president.

“The new PEC will have to be more co-operative and toe the national line. The national leadership is asserting itself and has done so in Free State and North West. They will want to avoid an intervention in KwaZulu-Natal.”

The political killings in the province, which this week claimed the life of Abahlali baseMjondolo Durban leader Sifiso Ngcobo, are also to be discussed. Branches in ANC regions including Moses Mabhida have complained that the ongoing murders are linked to ANC processes. On Sunday, speakers at a rally in Durban called by concerned branches claimed that the killings were being co-ordinated by influential figures in the party, which has been echoed by ANC head of organising Senzo Mchunu in media interviews.

On Monday Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the province in the wake of the murders of former ANC councillor Musawenkosi Mchunu and Inkatha Freedom Party councillor Sibuyiselo Dlamini.

The killings, which have escalated since the run-up to the 2016 local government elections, sparked the appointment of the Moerane commission of inquiry and several South African Police Service task forces but so far only one conviction, for a murder in the Glebelands hostel, has been secured. More than 100 people have been killed at Glebelands alone.

The recent Free State elective conference, at which Sam Mashinini was elected as chairperson, will also be discussed at the NEC meeting amid threats of legal action by members who believe the conference was held in contempt of a court order.

“There are about 14 branches which [the court] said had not properly run [their branch general meetings],” the NWC member said.

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