‘Purged’ mayor resurfaces to lend helping hand to David Mabuza

2014-08-27 13:53

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A mayor forced out of his job two months ago has returned to rally his region to support Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza to retain the provincial ANC chairpersonship for a third term.

Former Nkangala district mayor, Speedy Mashilo, has unexpectedly resurfaced from the political wilderness to carry the hopes of a man many fingered for having purged him twice to make way for his loyalists.

Before losing the mayorship, Mashilo was last year also forced out as Nkangala ANC regional chairperson when the provincial executive committee (PEC) stopped the regional executive committee (REC) from holding an elective conference and then dissolved it to be led by a task team.

Mashilo’s Nkangala REC was the only one among the province’s four – which include Ehlanzeni, Gert Sibande and Bohlabelo – where Mabuza did not have absolute support.

Now Nkangala has become very crucial in Mabuza’s ambition as Bohlabelo is doubtful due to pockets of disgruntlement within branches about his leadership. Ehlanzeni and Gert Sibande remain Mabuza’s strongholds.

All the four regions are set to go to elective conferences in September, while the provincial conference will take place midway during Mabuza’s premiership term in 2016.

“We want Mabuza to retain the chairpersonship at least until after his term as premier expires. He must see his government’s programmes through while time is being allocated to prepare somebody to take over in 2019,” said Mashilo’s chief lobbyist, Smangaliso Khumalo.

“Our decision is based on the fact that under Mabuza both the government and ANC are stable. At the same time, we’re aware of attempts by rivals to call an early provincial general council to remove him especially if Mashilo doesn’t win Nkangala,” Khumalo added.

The Mabuza camp also fears that if he does not remain in charge of the ANC he will finish his term as a lame duck premier, if not unceremoniously removed.

The PEC instructed Mashilo to resign just after the general elections when he turned down a deployment to the National Council of Provinces, citing family reasons.

At that time provincial party secretary, Lucky Ndinisa, said Mashilo and former Mbombela mayor, Cathy Dlamini, were being removed from their position because they had cost the ANC votes and three legislature seats which went to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Bushbuckridge Residents Association.

Almost half of the EFF’s votes in the province – about 41 000 – came from Nkangala, giving the new party 6.26% and cutting down the ANC’s target of 90% to 78.2% or 27 legislature seats.

Mashilo and Mabuza have since smoked a peace pipe, while the premier’s initial favourite PEC member and human settlements head of department, Sarel Mtshweni, has now fallen out of favour.

Mabuza has questioned Mtshweni’s decision to stand for a position in a lower structure while he is a PEC member. Mabuza was addressing ANC branches in the Thembisile Hani region recently when he raised the question.

Mtshweni leads the task team, which took over from Mashilo’s REC, and gets his support from the ANC Youth League.

Nkangala youth league secretary, Themba Masombuka, said the region needed a new leader with new ideas.

“When the REC was disbanded [Mashilo and REC] members did not take part in the organisation’s election campaign because they refuse to be led. The issue that Mtshweni is a PEC member and therefore cannot stand for a position in the REC doesn’t arise. There’s no restraint to do that in the ANC constitution,” Masombuka said.

The Mtshweni lobby group has not based its campaign on supporting Mabuza’s third term, but Masombuka said they had no problem with the provincial leadership.

“We’re supporting the chairperson [Mabuza] even now and we’ll continue to do so,” he said.

Mabuza is the first Mpumalanga premier to get a second term after Mathews Phosa and deputy correctional services minister, Thabang Makwetla, served only one term each.

Getting a third term as ANC chairperson will be another record for the premier, who is President Jacob Zuma’s ally, because no one in the province has ever served that long.

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