/ 18 June 2024

Premier Thami Ntuli appoints multi-party cabinet in KZN, prioritises crime and service delivery

Thami Ntuli
Newly elected KwaZulu-Natal premier Thami Ntuli. Photo: Mbuso Kunene

KwaZulu-Natal’s new premier, Thami Ntuli, has moved quickly to appoint a multi-party cabinet involving all the members of the government of provincial unity to run the province for the next five years.

Ntuli appointed members of his Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the ANC and the Democratic Alliance (DA) to his cabinet, along with Mbali Shinga, the sole National Freedom Party (NFP) member in the legislature.

The IFP led-coalition holds a combined 41 seats, giving it a majority over the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who followed the party’s national lead and voted against the unity government.

The NFP, a breakaway from the IFP, decided to go with the IFP-led coalition and not with the MK/EFF grouping, denying them control of a province in which the MK party got 45% of the vote in 29 May general elections.

In his assembling of a unity cabinet, Ntuli has placed emphasis on dealing with crime and halting the spiral in service delivery in KwaZulu-Natal municipalities, including the eThekwini metro, which have suffered because of the political turmoil in the ANC in the province.

Ntuli has delinked the province’s public safety portfolio from the transport ministry and located it in the office of the premier, a response to KwaZulu-Natal’s high murder rate, including the killings of political leaders, izinduna and amakhosi.

The new premier has also included the top leadership of his former political rivals in his cabinet, ensuring their party support of the tough decisions his government will have to make in the coming five years, while deploying his own IFP’s heavyweights to join them.

The party’s Musa Zondi, who was among the retired leaders of the IFP brought in to bolster its election campaign and to help ease tensions between factions, was appointed as MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs.

Zondi is a long-term IFP veteran who served as secretary general under the leadership of the late party founder and president emeritus, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and was an important part of its national leadership core for several decades.

Zondi is a highly skilled negotiator who also spent time as a MP in the National Assembly and will add an element of experience — and a cool head — to the provincial cabinet.

Ntuli appointed Thulasizwe Buthelezi, the traditional prime minister to King MisuZulu ka Zwelithini, to the cooperative governance and traditional affairs portfolio, a decision that will sit well with traditional leaders in the province.

The IFP’s Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa was appointed agriculture MEC and fellow IFP MPL Muntomuhle Khawula — another member of the party’s election team — is now the provincial MEC for sports, arts and culture.

DA provincial leader Francois Rodgers is now the finance MEC for KwaZulu-Natal and his colleague, Martin Meyer, takes on the role of public works MEC, one of the most challenging portfolios in a province blighted by infrastructure problems.

The health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, the ANC’s deputy provincial chairperson, retained her portfolio, while Shinga was appointed as social development MEC.

ANC provincial chairperson Siboniso Duma is the new MEC for transport and human settlements, which are now paired in a single portfolio, while ANC deputy secretary Sipho Hlomuka has been appointed as MEC for education.

Ntuli said he expected the MECs to “hit the ground running in order to start with the mammoth task that lies ahead of rebuilding the province of KwaZulu-Natal”.

He promised to lead by seeking consensus, saying that although the parties were recently campaigning against each other, “now is the time to put the people of KwaZulu-Natal first”.

“All of us are expected to serve with honesty, dignity and diligently. We must never betray the people of our province that voted for us,” Ntuli added.

The new premier said the provincial government would introduce performance monitoring for the MECs, whose jobs were to “ensure that service delivery is rolled out to all the people of this province”.

“This government I am honoured to lead, stands on the cusp of a new beginning,” Ntuli said. “Collectively, we will deliver on the hope and revival the people of this province so desperately required.

“Today, we enter a pivotal new period of rebuilding our province that will require all of us to have clear minds, while displaying visionary and committed leadership. Our government  will focus on the values that unite us. We will always seek consensus among different parties in our government.”

In his address, Ntuli reached out to the MK party and the EFF, saying that “even those that were not part of this journey, will remain our patriots and co-leaders and we will respect them, in accordance with the wishes of those who elected us”.

But the MK  party, which has 37 of the 80 seats in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, is understood to be planning to go to court to challenge the election of Ntuli as premier last Friday.