KZN: DA forces premier vote

2009-05-06 00:00

Pietermaritzburg-born Zweli Mkhize was yesterday elected the fifth premier of the province as expected, but the members of the provincial legislature had to cast secret ballots after the DA nominated its caucus leader John Steenhuisen to contest the premiership.

Mkhize beat Steenhuisen by 68 votes to seven, although his party holds 51 of the 80 seats.

Four ballot papers were spoilt, while one member of the legislature did not vote.

The DA also challenged the election of the speaker of the legislature by nominating Radley Keys, but he was trounced by 67 votes to seven by former Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni. Deputy speaker Mtholephi Mthimkhulu was elected unopposed.

The ANC broke into loud singing when their members won.

DA member of the legislature Sizwe Mchunu said that the nomination of Steenhuisen was a fulfilment of the party’s promise to its electorate that they wanted Steenhuisen to be premier.

He said the DA opposed Nkonyeni’s nomination because she is facing criminal charges.

The opposition parties congratulated Mkhize on his premiership wholeheartedly, but were critical of Nkonyeni’s appointment.

Cope’s provincial spokesman, Siyanda Mhlongo, said the removal of Nkonyeni as Health MEC is a relief to patients, health workers and doctors, but it is a heavy burden for the legislature.

Jo-Ann Downs of the ACDP said her party is shocked at Nkonyeni’s appointment given her legal problems and “terrible” performance as Health MEC. She said the oversight role of the legislature is bound to be diminished and the ANC is obviously happy to have a weak legislature.

IFP caucus leader Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi observed that Nkonyeni has a fraud trial pending, and the ANC could have picked a candidate without such a “blemish on their reputation”.

In a press briefing yesterday, Mkhize said Nkonyeni is innocent until proven otherwise.

Nkonyeni said she is honoured by the appointment and that she will not fail the people of the province.

Mthimkhulu said he is committed to serve with dignity and distinction in the interest of the people of KZN.

In his address, Mkhize paid tribute to his predecessor, S’bu Ndebele, who was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly.

“I wish to thank him for a job well done as the premier of the province. He conducted himself in a manner that bestowed dignity on the office of the first citizen of the province. He leaves behind a catalogue of achievements and a wonderful spirit of camaraderie among colleagues and comrades,” said Mkhize.

He said his administration will improve service delivery, fight poverty, unemployment, crime and corruption, promote rural development and revamp health and education.

Congratulating Mkhize, opposition parties said he had done well as Health and as Finance MEC. Cope member Lucky Gabela said he will keep an eye on Mkhize.

Minority Front leader Amichand Rajbansi said that like president- elect Jacob Zuma, Mkhize cares about people.

Steenhuisen said he looks forward to a good working relationship with Mkhize and robust debate. “We are opponents, not enemies. There is much work to be done to ensure the quality of life for the people of KZN is improved,” he said.

The IFP’s Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi said he wishes Mkhize will serve the people of the province faithfully, honestly and to the best of his abilities.

“In executing your duties as premier, I wish to urge you as a colleague in the medical profession to practise that old medical maxim: ‘to cure KZN where possible, to alleviate its people’s plight often and to comfort the citizens of this beautiful province always’,” he said.

Mkhize will announce his cabinet on Monday, the day he will be inaugurated as premier.

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