Mchunu’s aides axed

2016-06-07 13:55
Willies Mchunu

Willies Mchunu

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Pietermaritzburg - After two weeks of intense ­speculation, the axe has finally fallen on four MECs who had backed ousted ­premier Senzo Mchunu’s unsuccessful bid to be re-elected as ANC’s provincial chairperson.

Despite Premier Willies Mchunu ­saying a cabinet shuffle “will be ­abnormal” when he was sworn in last week, he announced wholesale changes to the provincial cabinet at an ANC ­“urgent” media briefing on Monday.

Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Mike ­Mabuyakhulu, Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Cyril Xaba and Sport, Arts and Culture MEC Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha have been replaced.

Insiders had said the fates of the four were sealed in November last year after the provincial conference where Sihle Zikalala emerged as the provincial ­chairperson.

The last nail in their coffins had been two weeks ago, when Mchunu was forced to resign as the premier.

Only the sitting premier can shuffle a cabinet, and the shafting of Senzo Mchunu had left the fate of the four in the hands of current premier Willies Mchunu.

The list of new MECs included the surprise appointment of SACP provincial secretary Themba Mthembu as the new Agriculture and Rural Development MEC. Mthembu and the SACP in KZN have been vocal in their criticism of the current ANC provincial leadership.

Mthembu broke ranks two weeks ago when he condemned the sacking of ­Senzo Mchunu, saying the alliance ­partners had not been consulted.

The SACP last week also threatened to pull out of the election campaign ­because they were not happy with how the nomination lists had been compiled.

Premier Willies Mchunu said that the move was not done to appease the ­alliance partners, saying Mthembu who had served as portfolio committee ­chairperson of Agriculture and Rural ­Development prior to being selected as the MEC and the decision was based on “his understanding and experience in the agriculture and rural development portfolio committee”.

The ANC Youth League, key backers of Zikalala’s campaign prior to the ­provincial conference, have been ­rewarded for their loyalty. The league in the province had last week issued a ­statement calling for the premier to “beef up” the provincial executive by appointing former Youth League leaders in the province to the cabinet.

The names of Sihle Zikalala, Mxolisi Kaunda, Mthandeni Dlungwane, Bongi Sithole-Moloi and others had been ­mentioned by the league.

Zikalala replaces Mabuyakhulu, Dlungwane replaces Nkonyeni, while Kaunda will fill in the vacancy left by Mchunu as Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC.

Sithole-Moloi will replace Sibhidla-Saphetha.

Immediately after the provincial ­conference, the Youth League had said a cabinet reshuffle seemed “inevitable” because at that time, most members of the cabinet were not elected to the ANC’s provincial executive committee.

Political analyst Protas Madlala said the shuffling had not come as a surprise.

“It was a question of time. The ANC Youth League had even mentioned the names of people they wanted in that ­cabinet. They played a key role in ­Zikalala’s election,” he said.

On the surprise appointment of Mthembu, Madlala said it was clear the ruling party was trying to “shut him up”.

“They are co-opting him to the other slate. He was the most vocal in the ­opposing slate,” he said.

Xolani Dube, of the Xubera Institute for Research, said Mchunu’s shuffling of the cabinet a week after he had said he would still need to assess the performances of the departments, showed that ­no one had their own time in politics.

“The time belongs to the political ­party not individuals,” he said.

ANC provincial secretary Super Zuma said the party’s provincial executive committee had “conducted a detailed assessment” on the functioning of all municipalities and provincial government departments. “This is a usual exercise done at least twice a year to ascertain the progress we are making in changing the lives of our people for the better.”

OPPOSITION political parties condemned the shuffle yesterday, saying it had been inspired by factionalism in the ANC.

DA leader in the legislature Sizwe Mchunu said it was clear that ANC “factionalism and infighting” is continuing “unabated”. 

“The ANC is more concerned with positions than putting the people first. The reality is that the ANC is itself the problem. These changes amount to nothing more than reshuffling the deck chairs while the ship is sinking.

“Indeed, the DA is disappointed by these widespread changes which come just two weeks after former premier Senzo Mchunu, was unceremoniously ousted from his post. 

“Today’s changes to the KZN cabinet are not aimed at improving the lives of ordinary people in the province. Instead, they represent an ANC that cannot provide consistent leadership.

“They tell us that the ANC is more interested in its own internal power struggles than in the smooth running of KZN. They tell us that the ANC in KZN is divided and that the delivery of services to the province’s citizens is not its top priority.”

IFP leader in the legislature Blessed Gwala said the reshuffle showed that rewards for those who had supported the new leadership’s bid, were being “dished out”.

“It is an indication that those who were appointed by Senzo Mchunu are not favoured by the new ANC leadership in KZN even though they have a lot of experience in government. 

“The IFP warns the ANC that any structure that is built on hatred, camps and distrust will not stand the test of time and will not benefit the people of KwaZulu-Natal. 

“We are therefore concerned that by shuffling MECs around or replacing them will only serve to disrupt service delivery and undermine the affected departments’ projected plans and projects for the years ahead,” he said. 

EFF provincial chairperson Vukani Ndlovu said the move will not benefit the people of KZN.

“We believe that this shuffling is not inspired by performance or non-performance but by the purge of those people who did not support the election of Zikalala. It is a clearly factionalism agenda by the ANC,” he said.


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