Meet the ANC’s premier candidates

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) has put forward the names of candidates chosen by the party as the premiers of the provincial legislatures following the 2019 elections. The candidates list includes some familiar faces — including Sihle Zikalala in KwaZulu-Natal and David Makhura in Gauteng — as well as some new people at the helm.

READ MORE: ANC takes steps to compensate for lack of women premier candidates

Only two of the incoming premiers — the Free State’s Sefora ‘Sisi’ Ntombela and Mpumalanga’s Refilwe Mtshweni — are women. Mtshweni was a relative unknown when she was appointed as the successor to former Mpumalanga premier and current deputy president David Mabuza. Hailing from Emalahleni, she was previously the MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs in the province.

Ntombela has worked her way up through the ANC structures, serving as mayor and was previously the treasurer in the Free State’s provincial leadership. A visible community activist, Ntombela suffered on highly visible blight to her career when she defended the multi-million rand Vrede dairy farm deal. The deal was supposed to benefit local communities but most of the funds allegedly ended up in the pockets of the infamous Gupta family.

Oscar Mabuyane was elected chairperson of the ANC Eastern Cape in October 2017,and will replace Phumulo Masualle as premier of the province. Most recently, he was MEC of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism in the Eastern Cape. Mabuyane and Masualle had to work together to avoid a rerun of 2017’s now infamous chaotic elective congress, dubbed the “festival of chairs”.

David Makhura will return as premier of Gauteng, a role which he has held since 2014. Speaking to the Mail & Guardian in March, Makhura said that he has learnt a lot since assuming the role. “To get things done, you have to have a great deal of determination and you have to be uncompromising,” he said at the time.


Sihle Zikalala will officially assume the role of premier of KwaZulu-Natal, replacing Willies Mchunu. The M&G reported last year that Zikalala faced competition for the role from former Durban mayor James Nxumalo. Zikalala had led the campaign to electNkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as ANC president in December 2017 and was at the helm of the dominant faction that waged a bitter and often brutal struggle for control of the party in the province.

Limpopo premier Stan ‘Chupu’ Mathabatha will return to his role, having managed to retain his leadership position in the province against Tsonga disco/Shangaan electro star Papa Penny last year. Penny accused Mathabatha of being out of touch with the problems in the province, saying he would speed up service delivery, especially of water to rural outliers; reform the health system, which he says “leaves people dying”; and create jobs to turn the province’s fortunes around.

“I don’t blame our organisation [for governance failures]; I blame our leaders,” Penny said at the time. “They must take some time to leave their office and see the reality on the ground. Don’t do a lot of talking; let’s do service delivery.”

In December 2018, Mathabatha said that “those who are corruptible should not be called members of the ANC.” He garnered praise for taking decisive action taken against seven mayors who had invested municipal funds into the now-defunct VBS Mutual Bank.

In the Northern Cape, Zamani Saul will replace Sylvia Lucas as premier. In May 2017, Saul was elected as the provincial chairperson. The battle between Lucas and Saul for leadership was perceived as a proxy battle for the ANC presidential campaigns of then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and former African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Since embattled former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo was ousted last year, the province has been in a state of disarray, with ANC support dropping by more than 4% in the provincial elections. In a statement issued late on Monday, party secretary-general Ace Magashule said talks regarding who the premier of that province would be were still ongoing. This comes after a proposal that the incumbent premier Job Mokgoro continue in his role was rejected.

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Aaisha Dadi Patel
Aaisha Dadi Patel
Aaisha Dadi Patel was previously a member of the M&G’s online team. She holds an MA in Media Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand
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