Mchunu faces factional firing line

2014-01-05 14:00

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Elite group in KwaZulu-Natal ANC wants the premier out after the general election.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu is facing a battle against a faction of the ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC) to keep his job.

This is according to two provincial executive committee officials who spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity.

They said a faction in the PEC –?led by, among others, ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala and Thulani Mashaba, the chairperson of the ANC’s uThungulu regional branch?–?is planning to remove Mchunu as premier.

City Press understands from the two PEC members, and a branch member who is aware of the situation, that this plan had been brewing since Mchunu was appointed in September.

His detractors plan not to nominate him on the list of candidates for the position after the general election.

A senior PEC official said that Mchunu was aware of the plot to unseat him, but was not fazed by it.

“He wants to concentrate on canvassing for the elections and does not want factional politics to divert his attention,” said the official.

“He has indicated that he would rather leave with his reputation intact than to blacken it by turning a blind eye to corruption.”

The official said Mchunu had made himself unpopular because of his public stance against corruption.

“He has indicated that he is not going to tolerate corruption and comrades are afraid that they will go hungry under his leadership,” said the official.

All three sources said that those who wanted Mchunu out would nominate either of two other MECs?–?whose names are known to City Press?–?for the position of premier.

The two were accused in a high-profile corruption case but charges against them, including fraud, corruption and racketeering, were later withdrawn.

When contacted, Mchunu said his only focus was electioneering for the upcoming elections.

“If there are plans, other than what I have said, I must confess I am not aware [of them],” he said.

The faction’s unhappiness with Mchunu allegedly stretches back years. Mchunu’s wife, Thembeka, the mayor of uThungulu district municipality at the time, wanted the PEC to look into allegations of corruption against Mashaba.

He had been connected to a number of shady deals in the province, but his involvement has never been proved.

A PEC member said: “Zikalala has been protecting Mashaba for years against allegations of corruption and nepotism in the municipality.

“When [Thembeka] Mchunu would report him to the PEC, Zikalala would block any discussion around the matters as he holds a strong position in the PEC.”

City Press is in possession of a letter written by the ANC’s uThungulu region to party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe in August last year outlining the problems the region has had with Mashaba.

The letter goes into detail about how Zikalala has been protecting Mashaba.

It says in Zulu: “Lomholi [Mashaba] onobudlelwano obujulileyo noNobhala weANC KwaZulu-Natal uMnu Sihle Zikalala?...?Lokhu kufakazelwa yindlela uMnuz Sihle Zikalala angaluthatheli phezulu ngakhona loludaba.”

Translated into English, it reads: “This leader [Mashaba] has a very close relationship with the KZN ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala and this is proven by how he does not take the issues around Mashaba seriously.”

City Press has learnt that when Mchunu was appointed premier, the faction believed he would pursue the allegations against Mashaba.

Zikalala and Mashaba dismissed as untrue allegations that they were leading the faction to remove Mchunu from his position.

“I wish to put it clearly that I’m not aware of such a campaign and therefore such statements are fundamentally wrong and misleading,” said Zikalala.

Mashaba denied any involvement in wrongdoing. He said his municipality had just received a clean audit for the first time from the Auditor- General.

“How can I then be involved in tender corruption, nepotism and looting state resources in this municipality?” he asked.

“I wish to state that I have nothing to do with deployment of any PEC or NEC [national executive committee] members to government positions.”

In the letter to Mantashe, the region asked for the NEC’s intervention and for Mashaba to be redeployed to the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters.

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