Zweli's out… but who’s in?

2013-08-23 00:00

WITH ANC provincial chairperson Senzo Mchunu expected to become KwaZulu-Natal’s caretaker premier until next year’s election, bets are open as to who will join him in his provincial cabinet.

Will there be a cabinet reshuffle or will he choose to fill only one post, namely, the Education one he will vacate, once he becomes the head of the provincial government on September 1?

As previously reported by The Witness, Mkhize was set to step down at the end of the month as premier to fill a full-time role as the ANC’s treasurer-general in Luthuli House.

Yesterday, ahead of joining President Jacob Zuma on a state trip to Malaysia, Mkhize announced the province’s worst kept secret, that he would indeed quit his post.

Pragmatism appears to have won the day, with Mchunu appointed as acting premier with the permanent position on September 1.

The ANC’s provincial executive committee will meet in Durban this weekend as scheduled.

It is expected that the meeting will also decide on which three names — in order of preference — will be forward to the ANC’s national executive committee as Mkhize’s successor. This is in line with the party’s constitution.

It is an open secret that Mchunu will get the nod, with party souces confirming this.

“It still remains a widely held view that Senzo should be the face of the ANC in KZN,” a source aligned to Mchunu told The Witness.

In this way, the ANC would avoid two centres of power, as was the case in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Northern Cape and North West.

The ANC, which has been divided in KZN, has had to pull together.

Zuma needs to ensure that he does not become the first ANC president of the country to muster less than 60% of the national vote in next year’s general election.

Then there are the new kids on the block that may make inroads into its support base, from AgangSA and the Economic Freedom Fighters, as well as established parties like the DA that has it sights on Gauteng.

For that, Zuma’s needs a strong ANC in KZN, and with the party’s largest region, eThekwini, behind Mchunu, as well as other key regions, the outgoing Education MEC appears a sure bet to lead the provincial ANC into the election as premier and beyond.

Mchunu has been leading the ANC election registration and also welcoming new members to the party in recent months.

He has also made public appearances with his deputy, Willies Mchunu, who lost out in the closely contested ANC provincial election in April.

“For the purpose of elections, they have to project a unified front,” another source linked to Willies Mchunu said.

As [Senzo] Mchunu gears up to take up the post there is speculation on a possible cabinet reshuffle, given that there is at least one vacancy because of Mkhize’s resignation.

Although Mchunu is believed to be playing his cards close to his chest, sources said he was not expected to make a wholesale cabinet reshuffle, as he would need to minimise tensions and ensure stability in the administration.

Names already bandied for consideration to replace Mchunu as Education MEC are education portfolio committee chairperson Linda Hlongwa and Speaker Peggy Nkonyeni.

“It’s either Linda or Peggy who must take over from Senzo. They want someone like Linda who understands the vision of Senzo when it comes to education matters such as rationalisation of schools,” said one source.

Should Nkonyeni, who is ANC treasurer and SACP provincial leader, get the nod, it would mean that her deputy Mtholephi Mthimkhulu would take over.

But, there is the view the period may herald the comeback of former police commissioner Bheki Cele, who is an NEC member and very popular on the ground and would boost the party’s election campaign.

Cele is credited for the recent IFP defections to the ANC in Nongoma.

Although he does not appear on the party’s provincial list for a seat in the legislature, the ANC in the province can review it to ensure he returns as an MPL, and can be appointed to the provincial cabinet.

It has been speculated that Willies Mchunu would be shifted into education, with Cele returning to the post of community safety and liaison and transport MEC.

This, however, could not be confirmed.

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