Guest Column

Is Limpopo premier facing the axe?

2017-01-22 06:36
Stan Mathabatha, premier of Limpopo. Picture: KENNY MATHIVA

Stan Mathabatha, premier of Limpopo. Picture: KENNY MATHIVA

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I was intrigued by Poloko Tau’s story – headlined “Limpopo head’s days numbered” – published last Sunday. The preface reads: “Coordinated efforts to remove Stan Mathabatha as premier of Limpopo are gaining pace in what is expected to cause serious headaches in Luthuli House about who should take over the job [from Mathabatha].”

Furthermore – and curiously – an unnamed ANC provincial executive committee member is quoted in the story as saying: “He [Mathabatha] was brought in to stabilise the Limpopo province both in the ANC and government but has failed, and there was no hope given the factional tendencies that were escalating daily in the party.”

Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler’s chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, is notorious for having coined and popularised this idea: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.”

Propaganda is a powerful mass communication tool that is used tactically to mislead, derail and confuse the unsuspecting public.

In the lead-up to the ANC’s elective national conferences post 1994, it has become customary for rival factions to publicly vilify each other. And, in the absence of rules of engagement, the use of propaganda by rival factions in the governing party is inevitable.

This becomes glaringly evident when secret documents portraying opponents in a negative light are leaked to media agencies.

My appraisal of our current political situation leads me to disagree with Tau’s report that Luthuli House is contemplating recalling Mathabatha.

In Limpopo, as far as the succession debate is concerned, there are currently two rival factions. One is politically and ideologically aligned to President Jacob Zuma; the other to his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mathabatha is believed to be associated with the latter, while the provincial ANC Youth League swears allegiance to Zuma.

In such opposing political associations it is understandable that the youth league is calling for Mathabatha’s dismissal. The league is opposed to the premier simply because he is not part of the Zuma camp.

Factional loyalty is obviously at play here.

Given this, the following question needs to be posed: Is it true that Mathabatha has failed to stabilise the Limpopo ANC and the provincial government?

Since assuming the premiership three years ago, Mathabatha has reversed many of the governance failures of his predecessor, Cassel Mathale.

When Limpopo was placed under administration in 2011, the province’s wasteful, irregular and fruitless expenditure amounted to more than R2.5 billion. Currently, that excessive figure has been reduced by more than 60%.

And, four of the five provincial departments which were placed under national administration in 2011 are now functioning efficiently.

Education is the only provincial department which is still trapped in the doldrums of incompetence and systemic irregularity.

Despite this, there are multiple areas of improvement and accomplishment in the broader provincial government. However, factional rivalry within the ANC in Limpopo is seeking to downplay these achievements under Mathabatha’s leadership.

No amount of falsehoods, deceit and dishonesty will obliterate Mathabatha’s prolific strides.

There are meritorious benchmarks that are used universally to assess and appraise the performance of any government leader. That “factional membership” is the criterion advanced by the youth league to justify the premier’s dismissal is unfortunate.

The Mathabatha administration has adopted an evidence-based quality assurance system when it comes to government procurement and fiscal expenditure. Gone are the days when predatory service providers were paid twice, as was the case during the Mathale administration, for work not completed.

Mathabatha has done exceptionally well in bringing fiscal prudence, accountability and good governance to Limpopo. There are several service-delivery indicators attesting to this.

Lastly, the constitutional protocol followed by the ANC, when seeking to remove a premier, requires a provincial party structure, or several regional structures, to first compile a report of grievances against the premier.

The provincial secretary, or regional secretaries, must then submit that report to Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, who will study that report and table it before the national working committee.

The committee will either reject or endorse that report, and then make recommendations to the ANC national executive committee (NEC).

As the highest decision-making body, the NEC will make the final decision to either remove or retain the premier.

To date, no formal discussion has taken place at Luthuli House pertaining to the political fate of Mathabatha.

Hence, reports about the premier’s possible removal appear to be part of the psychological warfare orchestrated by the Zuma camp in Limpopo.

For accuracy’s sake, journalists must at all times try to find reliable sources from all affected factions when writing stories on the succession debate.

Tau’s story may be well written, but it lacks journalistic impartiality and factual credence.

Masoga is a political analyst based in Limpopo

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