/ 24 February 2021

Mpumalanga premier removes Mabuza loyalists from her cabinet

Refilwe Mtsweni Tsipane
Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane has reshuffled her cabinet, firing four of her MECs after months of infighting.

Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane has reshuffled her cabinet, firing four of her MECs after months of infighting. 

Mtsweni-Tsipane announced the reshuffle on Wednesday in Ehlanzeni district municipality. 

The ousted MECs are Gabisile Tshabalala (community safety, security and liaison), Norah Mahlangu (human settlements), Petrus Ngomane (provincial treasury, economic development and tourism) and Gillion Mashego (public works, roads and transport).

The quartet are considered to have remained loyal to former premier, Deputy President David Mabuza,  whom Mtsweni-Tsipane has been fighting to gain control of the province

The premier reshuffled Vusumuzi Shongwe from agriculture, rural development, land and environmental affairs MEC to the community safety security and liaison portfolio. 

Former MEC for social development Thandi Shongwe has been moved to the department of sports, culture and recreation. 

Mandla Msibi has moved to agriculture, rural development, land and environmental affairs from co-operative governance and traditional affairs; and ANC provincial secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali moving to the social development department from her previous portfolio as the culture, sports and recreation MEC. 

The new MECs include Speedy Mashilo (human settlements); Busisiwe Shiba (co-operative governance and traditional affairs); Mpumalanga’s deputy speaker, Vusi Mkhatshwa (provincial treasury, economic development and tourism) and Mohita Latchminarain (public works, roads and transport).

Mtsweni-Tsipane said the composition of her executive council reaffirmed the government’s commitment to advance the development of capable female leaders, adding that women would continue to constitute 50% of the executive council. 

The 50-50 gender parity is part of the ANC’s Nasrec resolution that women must be represented in equal numbers in the cabinet, legislatures and councils. 

“We have included a significant number of young people, who we trust will infuse vibrancy and reinvigorate the functioning of the executive council,” the premier said. “As I conclude, I wish to express my appreciation to all the outgoing members of the executive. Your service to the people of Mpumalanga and your contribution to the development of the province will forever be heralded in the history books of our beautiful province of the rising sun.”

The reshuffle is sure to ruffle feathers when the party heads to its elective conference, scheduled for sometime this year. 

It will be seen as a signal that Mtsweni-Tsipane is ready to take on Mabuza and his allies. 

Acting provincial chairperson Mandla Ndlovu told the Mail & Guardian that the premier had consulted with the provincial leaders and conducted an assessment before making her bold decision. 

“It was not just a reshuffle from the atmosphere. She first conducted an assessment of the performance of all the MECs. Our assessment is always continual. We are happy that the premier has decided to reshuffle and position our members in places where she thinks they will perform better,” Ndlovu said. “We thank those that were deployed before. We will always work as a team, and sometimes the coach will realise that somebody can work far better at another position. People will be able to get services.”

ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said it was important for the party to ensure that its comrades’ actions always work to strengthen the unity of provinces and ensure service delivery is not compromised. 

“Luthuli House house doesn’t relate to structures of the ANC based on a pool of names, because there has always been an embedded belief that whether it’s provincial executive committees of the ANC or where deployments are being made, structures of the movement must be given that space to exercise and express themselves and make sure that their action work to consolidate our unity,” Mabe said. 

However, one party leader in Mpumalanga said although the premier may have solidified her authority in the province, he was afraid that this would provoke warring factions to retaliate against her. 

“There is no war without casualties in politics. This is just another way for her to stamp her authority, and I think she should. We are tired of being micromanaged by a tyrant [Mabuza], but it’s not over yet. The other team will fight back, and it will have an adverse impact on the people,” the party insider said. 

Ndlovu disputed this, saying that he did not anticipate any retaliation from Mtsweni-Tsipane’s detractors. 

“There will be no retaliation. It’s the prerogative of the premier. You can’t appoint a premier and restrict her rights to deploy and invite in and out [cabinet] members. They must just accept and support her. Our people want a better life. If the premier says she will be able to fulfil the commitment that the organisation made when we signed our social contract with the people, then we will not say no as an organisation,” he said.