New job for Willies

2013-08-29 00:00

WILLIES Mchunu is tipped to vacate his provincial cabinet post to become President Jacob Zuma’s advisor on safety and security matters, paving the way for Senzo Mchunu to become KwaZulu-Natal premier.

This forms part of the plan to avoid a face-off between the two MECs and to ease tensions between competing factions in the ANC’s strongest province, ahead of next year’s general and provincial elections, party insiders said.

The ANC needs a united front in its stronghold. Zuma does not want to be the first democratically elected president to muster less than 60% of the vote. New kids on the block, the Economic Freedom Fighters and Agang SA, could take votes away from the ruling party.

Last week, outgoing Premier Zweli Mkhize announced he would step down on August 31 to become ANC treasurer-general on a full-time basis at Luthuli House in Johannesburg. Mkhize, who then accompanied President Jacob Zuma on a state visit to Malaysia, named Senzo Mchunu as acting premier until August 27, when he would return to South Africa to serve his remaining days in the provincial government hot seat.

Willies Mchunu’s redeployment as Zuma’s adviser means that his supporters’ hopes that he might become caretaker premier until next year’s election have been dashed. Despite enjoying the backing of Zuma and Mkhize, Willies Mchunu lost by a handful of votes to Senzo Mchunu, in a two-way for the ANC provincial chairperson earlier this year, with the party remaining divided.

The ANC’s provincial executive committee met in Howick earlier this week and chose its three preferred candidates to replace Mkhize. As reported in The Witness earlier, the names of the two Mchunus as well as KZN Legislature speaker Peggy Nkonyeni, were duly forwarded to the ANC’s national executive committee, which has the final say on Mkhize’s successor.

The NEC gathered in Johannesburg yesterday for a special meeting, where the party’s top brass were expected to anoint Senzo Mchunu as the new premier. This will allow him to head the ANC’s election campaign in KZN as both premier and provincial chairperson.

Sources said Senzo Mchunu and Zuma recently held a meeting where the premiership was a subject of discussion.

It is understood that Zuma wanted Willies Mchunu to become the caretaker premier, but this would have ruffled feathers in Senzo Mchunu’s camp as he is ANC chairperson and two centres of power in KZN was not feasible.

The current scenario mirrors what happened in 2009. Then, Zweli Mkhize became premier and Sbu Ndebele was deployed to Parliament to become a cabinet minister in an attempt to ensure stability, and minimise political tensions between their respective camps.

The expected redeployment of Willies Mchunu — the current Community Safety and Transport MEC in KZN — means that Senzo Mchunu will have to replace him when he assembles his provincial cabinet.

Two names mooted as a possible replacement include transport portfolio committee chairperson Bheki Ntuli and chief whip Lizzy Shabalala.

In the education portfolio to be vacated by Senzo Mchunu, education portfolio committee chairperson Linda Hlongwa and standing committee on public accounts chairperson Sipho “KK” Nkosi, are the favourites to succeed him as MEC. Nkosi is also a former Sadtu provincial secretary.

The sources also said Agriculture MEC Meshack Radebe may face a possible chop, after he contested one of the additional posts in the provincial executive committee in March, against the wishes of those in Senzo Mchunu’s camp, and lost.

It is understood that there is also serious lobbying to have former police commissioner Bheki Cele back in the fold. This is because he has immense popularity on the ground and he is also a national executive committee member. However, his legal action against Zuma in challenging his dismissal as police boss could scupper his hopes, a source said.

Meanwhile, Senzo Mchunu led ANC provincial leaders on a visit to King Goodwill Zwelithini at his Nongoma palace on Tuesday.

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala confirmed the visit.

“The top officials of the provincial leadership paid a courtesy visit to His Majesty to brief him about developments in the provincial government, especially that Premier Mkhize is leaving,” Zikalala said.

Party insiders said Senzo Mchunu paid the visit on advice from his “advisory team” because “no premier can do without the king”.

Mkhize also visited Zwelithini the day before he announced his resignation.

•  The KZN Legislature will today host a special farewell sitting in Mkhize’s honour, which will be followed by a special dedication by Zwelithini.

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