Mahlatse Mahlase

Why Ramaphosa could be heading for trouble in North West

2018-05-03 08:47
North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo

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Rumblings of calls for an early ANC National General Council to oust President Cyril Ramaphosa have spooked his ground supporters so much that the lobbying groups ahead of the party's December presidential election have now swung back into action.

Since Ramaphosa's election they have privately yearned to see the crass politics of the party's former leader Jacob Zuma in him. They are frustrated with his diplomatic approach even as Zuma supporters who lobbied for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma openly regroup to attempt a palace coup.

It started with the compromise Cabinet reshuffle. He kept some of the incompetent ministers in his executive, indicating his weak hold on power.

From the Free State to KwaZulu-Natal, Ramaphosa's ground troops grew frustrated as the interim structures to lead the provinces to a fresh elective conference were being dominated by the same people that they had taken to court over branch manipulation and gatekeeping.

Their calls for more balanced interim structures appeared to be falling on deaf ears.

The supporters are well aware that Ramaphosa is leading the party at its most difficult time; his control strangled by his slim win at the national conference.

They know the only way to solidify power is to win control of the provinces – especially those that were led by the powerful block of chairpersons labelled the Premier League – so he can escape vulnerability.

The power of the provinces was laid bare under Zuma's leadership. The Premier League defended his ruinous years at the helm because they had a firm grip on the branches in their provinces. 

Now that same battle for control of the ANC that was half-won by both sides at the elective conference is playing itself out in the North West province. For Ramaphosa's group ousting embattled premier Supra Mahumapelo will help entrench his power base.

Mahumapelo is seen as the last laager of the Premier League with two of its members now constrained by national duty and KwaZulu-Natal shaky under an interim structure. 

Former Mpumalanga chairperson David Mabuza is now the deputy president, former Free State chair, Ace Magashule, is now the secretary general and former KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala is coordinator of the interim structure to steer the province to fresh elections.

Ironically, three out of the four provinces have lost court bids challenging legitimacy of their provincial elective conferences or regional conferences.

Those supporting Ramaphosa in the National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC) are trying hard to shift his perceived inaction on the growing crisis in the province, stressing that only the NEC, which is the highest decision-making body of the party, has powers to recall a deployee.

Ramaphosa cut short his trip to London in an attempt to quell the violence that was still limited to the capital Mafikeng. But since his visit, the protests have spread beyond Mafikeng and several towns have ground to a halt, with residents looting shops and schools coming to a standstill, accompanied by growing calls for Mahumapelo to go.

The ultimatum by the so-called Revolutionary Council to Ramaphosa was quite telling of the growing impatience within his ground forces. They gave him a Wednesday deadline to fire Mahumapelo or they will shut down the province.

The group is made up of former student leaders who were part of the successful battle to oust Bantustan leader Lucas Mangope. Ahead of Nasrec they campaigned for Ramaphosa to become president.

By January already they publicly announced their bid to see Mahumapelo out which included recruiting public servants to expose the corruption plaguing the platinum province.

In just four months, allegations of Gupta linked company Mediosa and IT companies being paid millions of rand for doing no work started emerging.

The campaign was accompanied by a strong push within the legislature by ANC MPs to vote Mahumapelo out via an EFF sponsored motion of no confidence.

Complaints of corruption were laid with the police, and the Hawks raided the premier's office.

Mahumapelo had emerged as the face of the anti-Ramaphosa campaign at the conference and some have argued he would provide the strongest base for an early National General Council.

So, this final push, if lost, could have dire consequences for Ramaphosa as his enemies would be emboldened ahead of expected fierce battles in KZN, Free State and Limpopo with all indications showing that postponing the elective conferences beyond elections will not happen.

Now Ramaphosa's challenge is how to rid the party of the institutionalised factions of the Zuma era without inciting a rebellion against him.

He seems to have opted for a reconciliatory approach, working with everyone including those who have openly vowed to oust him at the slightest opportunity.

In the long run, his strategy would work only if his pre-Nasrec supporters are prepared to give him time. But indications are that the rot of the Zuma era was so deep that his supporters can't wait to clean up. Under such circumstances, Ramaphosa's long game is viewed by his supporters as being too soft. His opponents see it as a sign of weakness.

- Mahlase is politics editor of News24.

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Read more on:    anc  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  supra mahumapelo

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