Mkhize off to Luthuli House?

2013-03-04 00:00

WAS Thursday’s state of the province address (Sopa), Dr Zweli Mkhize’s last as provincial premier?

Speculation is rife that Mkhize, who was elected ANC treasurer-general in December, will leave his provincial government post, sooner than originally expected.

This was fuelled by comments made by two of Mkhize’s MECs — believed to be in his inner circle — during the Sopa debate on Friday.

The fact that several employees at the ANC’s national headquarters have also not been paid their February salary, has placed the party’s finances under the microscope again.

It is believed that the ANC’s finances are actually in the red, and that much fund-raising will have to be done if it wants to mount an effective election campaign next year. This could not be officially confirmed.

Mkhize told The Witness last night he was not stepping down as premier.

“People who told you the story were speaking nonsense.”

On reports that the party was cash-strapped and that he would be expected to fundraise vigorously ahead of next year’s national election, Mkhize said the ANC’s financial matters were private.

“Don’t believe stories that you hear from faceless sources about the ANC,” he added, before putting the phone down.

In his reaction, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said he was not present during the Sopa debate and referred The Witness to the ANC’s constitution.

“At a right time, he will be full time. He has been elected to that position. There is no conspiracy to bid him farewell.”

A staff member at Luthuli House said it was not unusual for them not to be paid on time. “For instance in December we were only paid on the 28th.”

Some staff members had also not been paid last month, she said.

Questions have been raised about whether a person responsible for fundraising for the governing party could occupy any official position in any tier of government, without any conflict of interest. No ANC treasurer-general has also held a simultaneous post in government.

Mkhize is set to step down as the ANC’s provincial chair later this month, when the party holds its provincial general council to elect his successor as KZN party leader. The ANC’s constitution bars a member of the party’s national executive committee from also holding a position in its provincial leadership.

While the ANC constitution provides for a treasurer-general to be a full-time job, the KwaZulu-Natal ANC has been adamant that Mkhize will remain a premier until next year’s election or the organisation decides otherwise.

During Friday’s Sopa debate, Transport MEC Willies Mchunu and Co-operative Governance and Traditional MEC Nomusa Dube congratulated Mkhize.

But they also appeared to go further than the usual congratulatory comments at such an occasion.

Mchunu was the first to signal that Mkhize might be on his way out.

“The government and your executive is fully behind all the programmes that you started and we will make sure that all the infrastructure you have laid for us in 2012 are dealt with and the austerity measures laid by your government to deal with issues of overdraft.

“The ANC, premier, wishes you

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well in all your other [levels of leadership assigned to you]. We hope and wish you good luck,” Mchunu said.

He then appeared to row back, stating: “Nonetheless you remain the premier of this province until the ANC decides.”

Dube also joined the chorus, praising Mkhize for providing leadership and direction.

“On behalf of the people of KZN, we really wish to express our profound gratitude to you, honourable premier, and the ANC as a leading party, for visionary leadership, for your humility and unwavering commitment to the betterment of the lives of our people,” she said.

Mkhize was leaving a legacy where “we experienced unprecedented levels of development”.

KZN was now in the forefront of transformation, Dube said.

“May you continue to be a visionary and a cadre that champions service delivery, honesty, fighting corruption and ensuring our people benefit from the struggle of many years,’ Dube added.

Mchunu and Dube could not be reached yesterday to clarify their comments, but their utterances drew mixed reaction from MPLs in KZN, while the provincial ANC tried to downplay what they said.

IFP KZN leader Dr Blessed Gwala said : “It was a farewell speech to the premier, but at the same time he [Willies Mchunu] is also a contender for the position of [ANC KZN] chairman.

“He is looking forward to taking it [the premiership] over, although he is facing a challenge from Senzo Mchunu.”

He dismissed Dube’s speech as “nothing but praise singing”.

“I don’t know what she was praise singing about, because there was nothing he has done except to repeat what he said about infrastructure …” Gwala said.

DA leader Sizwe Mchunu said he believed the two MECs were merely pledging support for the programmes announced by Mkhize.

A senior ANC leader however told The Witness: “The speech tells the story.” Mkhize’s speech was punctuated with the KZN government’s achievements since 2009.

“What we know is that the ANC will decide when he should be full time at Luthuli House,” said the provincial leader.

However, ANC provincial spokesperson Senzo Mkhize said nothing should be read into the two MECs’ speeches.

“We have made it clear that he will continue being the premier until the end of term.

“There is no vacancy for premier of KZN. There is no move by the premier to step down,” he insisted.

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