ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte and outgoing North West premier Job Mokgoro are said to have had a heated meeting on Tuesday night (17 August) following an announcement that Bushy Maape would take over the post.
During the meeting, sources with intimate knowledge of the conversation told the Mail & Guardian Mokgoro complained that he had been treated like a “pisspot” by the ANC leaders in the province.
The North West interim provincial committee (IPC) announced Maape as the incoming premier to replace Mokgoro during a media briefing on Tuesday.
At least four sources in the ANC’s highest structures both in the North West and at national level told the M&G that the announcement was made without consulting Mokgoro. Two ANC insiders have laid the blame for Mokgoro’s reluctance to leave office on the IPC and the top officials.
According to insiders, Mokgoro told Duarte that he had been treated unfairly and that the only time the IPC had attempted to reach out to him was via WhatsApp or through messages to his personal assistant.
“He asked the [deputy secretary general] why he was blamed for the collapse of municipalities in the province when municipalities were in crisis before he took office. He said to her, ‘How is it possible that people are saying they have been submitting reports to Luthuli House for the past ten months, you discuss all these issues without giving me a chance to come and present my side of the story? The simple process of natural justice should have applied’,” one source said.
The insider, who is sympathetic to Mokgoro, said the outgoing premier explained to Duarte that he had attempted to reach out to top ANC officials to give him an audience on numerous occasions but was never given the opportunity.
Another insider and provincial leader said Duarte was in an “apologetic mood” during the meeting, adding that Mokgoro was “fuming”. The provincial leader said Mokgoro has called the IPC’s reasons for his removal “flimsy and baseless”.
“He said to her, ‘Where I come from it’s an Afrikaans-speaking community and you come from there, Comrade Jessie. I am being used as a pisspot so that by the time everybody passes, you think I’m a bad pole but it’s because everybody urinated on me.’ He told her that they never gave him a chance to come and present his side of the story and that he even tried to reach out to the secretary general Ace Magashule before he was suspended to explain the peculiar condition of the North West,” the insider said. “The officials don’t understand because they sit at Luthuli House and get reports but this is a very unique province. He did not apply for this job, he did not request the ANC to put him there. He was mad and he made it known.”
The provincial leader added that Duarte told Mokgoro that the IPC had resolved to remove him owing to the poorly performing municipalities in the province and high levels of youth unemployment.
“Covid-19 has made it impossible for economies to grow. It’s not a North West phenomenon. It’s a power grab,” the leader said.
ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile’s visit to the North West earlier this week, where he announced the decision to remove Mokgoro, was also a bone of contention during the meeting with Duarte, sources said.
“They rushed to make an announcement even before they could tell Mokgoro. That is the crisis. [Duarte] called [IPC North West coordinator Hlomane] Chauke on Saturday 14 August to tell him [the decision on Maape] and that is when the mistake started. When the treasurer general went to launch a foundation in the North West he also made comments. Chauke started briefing their factions. Mokgoro was not told by anyone. Only yesterday did the deputy secretary general take the initiative to meet Mokgoro, at that time, the announcement had been made,” the NEC member said.
The swearing-in of Maape has been stalled while the IPC negotiates with Mokgoro to resign as premier and a member of the provincial legislature. One NEC member told the M&G that Mokgoro was not opposed to resigning as premier but negotiations were taking place on his stepping down from the legislature.
“Mokgoro says, ‘I am not going anywhere’ and this is informed by the fact that he was asked to come in while he was the director general of the province and now they don’t consult him when they want him gone. On that score, Mokgoro has got a point,” the NEC member said.
“But with [Duarte], they decided that he must have days to prepare a handover report. He could be out of office by next week. You need him to resign as a member of the legislature, which is also a matter of contention. He at this point does not want to resign as a member of the legislature which means the province will be leaderless.”
Maape, who is not a member of the legislature, is currently Mokgoro’s provincial economic adviser. The veteran ANC leader and former Robben Island political prisoner is also a member of the IPC.
The recall of Mokgoro, an ally of ousted former premier Supra Mahumapelo, has already sparked a backlash from the latter’s supporters, who started burning tyres in the streets of the provincial capital, Mahikeng, before the ANC announced its decision.
Maape is understood to be a compromise candidate acceptable to both Mahumapelo’s supporters and the interim committee, which was appointed by Luthuli House after Mahumapelo was recalled in 2018.
The party insiders, however, told M&G that some provincial heavyweights are viewing Maape’s appointment as a reward for his alleged involvement in Mahumapelo’s axing and for his alliance to ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa during his campaign for the position.
“Bushy was a leading figure of that revolutionary council that was agitating for Supra to be removed. Others see this thing as a reward. Others are saying you can’t paint Bushy as a unifying figure, he is being rewarded for his efforts to oust Supra. They wanted [Mokgoro] to remove Bushy from his office last year and he refused. Today the same Bushy is their candidate, it’s very strange. Bushy is a means to win the provincial conference next year,” the insider said.
The two NEC members who spoke to the M&G each said the removal of Mokgoro was not discussed during NEC meetings, but that it remained the decision of the ANC, because “we have surrendered authority to decide on premiership based on Congress resolution to national officials, but it doesn’t mean it’s a decision of the NEC”.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe referred the M&G to the provincial leadership while efforts to reach Chauke for comment were unsuccessful.
In a previous interview with the M&G Chauke said Mokgoro was privy to talks of his removal.
“When we take these decisions, [Mokgoro] is fully aware of the decisions of the structure, so we do not need to go back and say we have taken this decision. He has been part of the structure; he understands; he knows the systems of the organisation; he has participated at the level of the IPC when the decision was taken on a number of these things that confront his government,” Chauke said.