Premier under spotlight

2011-07-18 00:00

THE political future of KZN Premier and ANC provincial chairperson Dr Zweli Mkhize is hanging in the balance, a political analyst said yesterday.

City Press reported yesterday that Mkhize’s signature appears on two documents that led to the provincial government spending R44 million on water purification plants, a tender that has led to corruption charges for a number of top officials and political leaders.

Yet Mkhize will not be charged with some of the province’s most powerful individuals when the “three Amigos” fraud and corruption trial finally gets under way in the high court in Pietermaritzburg next month.

Instead, he will be called as a state witness against his cabinet and ruling party colleagues, the report said.

Mkhize’s signature appears on an internal memorandum with those of Economic Development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu and three heads of department, motivating for the plants to be built without going to tender. A warrant has been issued for Mabuyakhulu’s arrest.

Independent political analyst Protas Madlala told The Witness yesterday he believes the premier’s political future hangs in the balance. He said the fact that Mkhize has been publicly heckled in Pietermaritzburg and Durban is a sign that he no longer enjoys popularity among party members.

Madlala said there is a cold war going on in the light of the murder last week of eThekwini branch secretary Sibusiso Sibiya only a month before the regional conference.

“When you no longer enjoy popular support in your own back yard then where do you run to for it?” Madlala asked.

However, political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu, a lecturer at UKZN, said that at this point there is nothing to suggest that Mkhize could lose his position as ANC provincial chairperson, although there have been signs that some people within the ANC in KZN are not happy with him as their leader, especially in Pietermaritzburg, his home town.

“I thought that the premier should have handled the matter of the activists who staged a sit-in at Moses Mabhida regional offices differently by trying to negotiate with them instead of using the courts to deal with this issue,” Ndlovu said. This would have helped Mkhize shore up his support in Pietermaritzburg.

With the arrests of Mabuyakhulu and KZN Legislature speaker Peggy Nkoyeni looming in the corruption case, he added, people are beginning to lose faith in the government.

“Over the next 10 years the ANC might lose the popularity it currently enjoys if the issue of corruption is not dealt with … as it has a negative impact on service delivery,” he said.

Professor Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg said it is perfectly legitimate for the Hawks to use the premier as a state witness.

“We have to distinguish between Zweli Mkhize the citizen and Zweli Mkhize the premier. Mkhize the citizen can turn state witness, provide evidence for the prosecution of others and be given legal concessions by the Hawks in this regard,” he said.

But Habib said that as premier Mkhize has no such privilege, as the foundation for holding public office is that one should be trusted to use citizens’ money in an honest manner. If one has been complicit in unethical and corrupt behaviour then the foundational trust is broken and “your legitimacy as premier is compromised and for that reason your party has to act against you”.

Mkhize’s spokesperson, Ndabe Sibiya, said there is nothing new to the story by the City Press and he cannot comment because the matter is before the court. He dismissed allegations that the premier, Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni are at odds with each other.

“The premier is continuing with the business of the day with his colleagues in cabinet … Over the past week the premier has addressed several conferences with the MEC for Economic Development, Mike Mabuyakhulu. On occasions the MEC represented the premier.”

Sibiya said the province is functioning well and in fact it is one of the better managed provinces.

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