/ 4 December 2020

North West premier goes off the rails

Anc Also Concerned About Corruption – Dlodlo
Waiting in the wings: Obed Bapela is the ANC’s national executive committee convener for the North West province and is said to be ready to replace the incumbent. (Lisa Hnatowicz/Gallo Images/Beeld)

Behind the scenes, moves are afoot in the ANC in North West to remove premier Job Mokgoro and replace him with Obed Bapela, the party’s national executive committee (NEC) convener for the province.

Backers of Bapela, including Hlumani Chauke, the convener of the interim provincial committee (IPC) running the ANC in the province, are using the premier’s refusal to remove cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Mmoloki Cwaile to lobby national leadership for his removal.

Mokgoro, who was appointed as premier in June 2018, was in October grilled by the Zondo commission over R50-million that was allegedly wrongfully signed off to SA Express in 2015 while he was director general of the then-premier and provincial chair Supra Mahumapelo’s department.

Cwaile, a former MPL who is an ally of Mahumapelo, was appointed by Mokgoro last month, a move that sparked an immediate challenge from within the IPC.

Cwaile’s appointment is seen as a victory for Mahumapelo and his faction, which had dominated the provincial executive committee that was dissolved by Luthuli House and replaced with the interim committee in January 2018.

Cwaile’s name had also been included on the list of ANC leaders who should be asked to stand aside over allegations of corruption or criminality, which was submitted to ANC headquarters Luthuli House by Chauke earlier this year.

Sources in the ANC said Chauke had instructed Mokgoro to rescind the appointment on Monday, but that the premier had declined to do so.

The premier said he did not wish to respond to “rumours about alleged ambitions” of leaders or members.

“We all serve at the behest of the ANC. As disciplined members of the organisation, we heed the call of deployment. Mr Mmoloki Cwaile is a duly elected member of the North West provincial legislature for the 6th electoral term from 2019 to 2024. His appointment was necessitated by the need to expedite service delivery in the province and to provide effective leadership in the department. He has hit the ground running and is already working around the clock to undertake his responsibilities,” said Mokgoro.

In regard to the alleged ultimatum, he said that meetings between the premier and the ANC IPC remained confidential unless relevant structures deemed otherwise.

Supporters of Mahumapelo are now rallying behind the appointment of Cwaile. Paul Sebegoe, the chairperson of the South African National Civic Organisation in the province, said they believed the attempt to force Mokgoro to rescind his appointment was a factional one which would destabilise the running of the province.

“It would be tantamount to cowering to factional interests and a self-serving agenda that is not in the interests of our communities,” Sebegoe said. “We will oppose any attempt that is aimed at bringing division and advancing factional agendas,” he added.

This impasse may result in factions taking to the streets in protest, depending on the outcomes of this weekend’s meeting at Luthuli House. Sources in the province have said that the fight will be taken to the streets and protests should be expected in the coming weeks. 

Cwaile declined to comment, saying that decisions around deployment were taken by the premier, not by the IPC.

“I have no comment to make. The decision is the prerogative of the premier and falls within his powers,” Cwaile said.

The IPC’s fight with Mokgoro is not the only issue it is facing.

Earlier in the week, the high court in Mahikeng ruled that the leadership troika of the Maquassi Hills local municipality, which had earlier been recalled by the IPC, should remain in place until directed to do otherwise by the ANC’s NEC.

Maquassi mayor Gaamangwe Kgabi, speaker Daphney Notwane and chief whip Nomveliso Tshingilane had lodged an application challenging their recall shortly after the IPC decided to remove them from office in September.

However, the troikas, all allies of Mahumapelo, refused to vacate office after their ANC regions, which were also collapsed by the IPC, met and took a decision to resist the instruction.

Last week the ANC leadership, on a visit to North West to assess preparations for its provincial conference in January, announced that the decision to recall the five troikas had been reversed.

A source in the IPC said there were “rumours flying” in the province that Bapela, who is the NEC convener of deployees in North West, was lobbying to replace Mokgoro as interim premier.

“We understand that the IPC is being manipulated to make decisions that will cause chaos and create conditions that will enable a takeover of the North West provincial government,” the IPC member said.

The IPC, he said, had failed in its task of rebuilding the ANC in the province.

“The IPC was asked by the NEC to build branches and cement unity. Till today, they haven’t launched even one branch. For 15 months, they have been running around after the municipalities and focusing on the wrong things,” the source said.

Mothusi Shupinyane, the spokesperson for the ANC in the North West province, said he was not aware of tensions between the IPC and the premier or of any instruction to Mokgoro to remove Cwaile.

Shupinyane said that a decision about the five recalled troikas would be taken by the ANC national executive committee at its meeting this weekend.

The subheading of this piece has been amended for accuracy.