/ 6 February 2023

Mxolisi Dukwana heads the list of Free State ANC candidates to replace premier Ntombela

According to Mxolisi Dukwana
Former Free State Economic Development MEC Mxolisi Dukwana. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G

Newly elected Free State ANC chair Mxolisi Dukwana has topped the list of names that the party’s provincial executive committee (PEC) will be submitting to its mother body on Monday to replace Sisi Ntombela for the position of premier. 

According to insiders, Dukwana, along with provincial deputy secretary Dibolelo Mahlatsi and deputy chair Toto Makume, have emerged as the preferred candidates for the job. 

The three party leaders were elected at the provincial conference in January. 

Dukwana, a loyal ally of President Cyril Ramaphosa, beat Ntombela — receiving 346 votes, while Free State premier Ntombela received 303. 

Dukwana previously held the position of convener of the interim structure appointed in May 2021. In October of that year, he was appointed as MEC for cooperative governance. 

While the province will take the three names to the top seven on Monday evening, insiders say that this is just a “formality” as it is widely expected that Dukwana will be the choice for the position of premier. 

According to insiders, the PEC held a meeting last week where a decision was taken to recall Ntombela, thereby reshuffling the provincial government executive council. 

Ntombela, once an ally of former secretary general Ace Magashule, has been accused of failing as the premier of the province. She was accused of not having curbed the culture of criminality in the Free State. 

Under her administration, the municipalities in the province had also failed to deliver services, according to detractors. 

The ANC in the Free State has been battling internal fighting, with those loyal to Magashule creating parallel structures. 

On Monday, a parallel structure calling itself the Mangaung regional executive committee — which is not recognised by the provincial leadership — released a statement taking aim at Ramaphosa. 

The structure, which is led by Patrick Monyakoana, called into question the decision to recall Ntombela. The members said that the PEC had been “premature” and “opportunistic” in its decision to fire Ntombela, adding that this would cause further instability in the province. 

“This will further demonstrate inconsistency with the clarion call of unity and renewal,” the structure said. 

It also called into question the recent provincial conference, accusing national executive committee deployees, led by David Mahlobo, of unbecoming behaviour and arrogance. 

The conference was marred by disruptions as disgruntled members took to the courts but lost their application to challenge its legitimacy. 

The Mangaung structure also criticised Ramaphosa’s closing remarks at the Free State conference in January, when he ridiculed disgruntled ANC members for challenging the process due to claims that seven delegates had been excluded.

“We want to remind the president that, if we were in the national election, as we are preparing for, we could have lost power because of the madness of seven votes,” they said. 

The Mail & Guardian understands that secretary general Fikile Mbalula intends to call the structure to “account for its utterances”.