Gauteng provincial executive committee (PEC) members Brian Hlongwa and Qedani Mahlangu have been called on to “introspect” and “make the right decision” following the public furore over their election to the committee.
The province’s newly elected provincial secretary, Jacob Khawe, has also asked the ANC’s integrity committee to have the two leaders appear before it.
Hlongwa is under investigation for alleged corruption during his tenure as health MEC between 2006 and 2009, and Mahlangu has been widely blamed for the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients.
“From the perspective of revolutionary morality, I leave [it] to both of them to look at the matter, look at themselves and look at the ANC, and then take the right decision which will seek to advance the interests of the party,” Khawe said.
“Revolutionary morality … it’s where it is not necessarily just about justice and internal processes, it’s about having individual consciousness. Are you listening to what people are saying? Are you listening to the cries of the people?” the former ANC Youth League leader said.
Hlongwa and Mahlangu were elected at the party’s Gauteng conference last month.
Khawe said it was important for the ANC to treat everyone fairly and to follow due process before making a decision. But the party had to act swiftly on these and other issues to show it had “moved away from arrogance”.
“On the internal organisation processes, I have pressed upon the integrity committee and its chairperson, Trevor Fowler, that we request this matter to be resolved with speed.
“This also includes the matter of the former mayor of Emfuleni, comrade Simon Mofokeng [who is accused of sexually grooming a teenager]. On behalf of the PEC, I said I want these matters to be processed with necessary speed,” he added.
In the 2016 local government elections, the ANC lost 8% of its national support and 13.8% in Gauteng. It also lost the Johannesburg and Tshwane metros to the Democratic Alliance.
At the time, an internal ANC report showed voter dissatisfaction had partly been caused by the party’s failure to deal with corruption and its protection of wrongdoers among its ranks.
Political observers have warned that the election of Mahlangu and Hlongwa to the PEC would similarly alienate voters if the Gauteng ANC did not act.
Khawe said the ANC was committed to renewal and proving itself to be a “listening party”.
In addition to his role as party secretary, Khawe is mayor of the Emfuleni municipality, a position he took over from Mofokeng in November last year. In May, he and Gauteng premier and ANC chairperson David Makhura found themselves at odds when Makhura decided to place the municipality under administration for its failure to deliver services and manage its finances properly.
Khawe’s supporters accused Makhura of abusing state resources to target his political opponents before the provincial conference.
“We were completely not understanding each other. For me at some point I thought it was a statement of no confidence in me. That you sent me to a place that has long collapsed to revive it. I’m there for [only] five months and then you come up with such an intervention,” Khawe said.
He did not agree, however, that Makhura was targeting him and said they had resolved their misunderstandings.
“My relationship with him is an okay relationship. Of course, we are not friends; we are comrades and we have mutual respect for each other.”
The two leaders will have to work together to reverse the ANC’s lost ground. A recent survey by research company Ipsos has projected the ANC would receive 58% of the vote in Gauteng next year. But it will be a tight contest because both the Economic Freedom Fighters and the DA have also set their sights on controlling the country’s economic hub.
Khawe said he would prioritise four key areas — generational mix, political education, quality of leadership and the revival of its branches — to strengthen the ANC’s election machinery. In particular, the branches needed to stop being complacent and reclaim their role of social activism.
“The weakness is that we got used to interacting without our people as government and we lost our ability to mobilise them even on issues that we know that here is not a purely ANC matter, it’s an administrative issue,” he said.
“I believe in an ANC that is always on the side of the people. Even if the premier is a premier of the ANC, but if the people think they are not being listened to, the ANC branches must lead the people in the fight to ensure they are heard and their demands are listened to.”