Ralph Mathekga

North West chaos shows the ANC is nowhere near unity

2018-04-23 14:00
North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. (Picture: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Tiro Ramatlhatse)

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. (Picture: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Tiro Ramatlhatse)

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The passing of time since the ANC's Nasrec conference last December has shown that the cracks within the party are too deep to be sealed by a pronouncement of unity by party leaders. The standoff between North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo and those who are calling for his resignation is a clear indication that the ANC is nowhere near unity.

Mahumapelo is facing his toughest battle yet; and evidence of corruption seems to be piling up against him. When it comes to Mahumapelo's political life, allegations of corruption are not new, neither are the enemies. What makes things different for Mahumapelo now is that he no longer enjoys unconditional support from the top leadership of the ANC, since former president Jacob Zuma left office.

For Mahumapelo to survive politically, he can only count on those who are facing the same fate as him: he belongs to the growing wounded group within the ANC. This group will grow bigger and bigger as investigations into corruption intensify. He has already identified a suitable defence through which to push against attempts to end his reign in the North West: he maintains he is being persecuted for having supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to lead the ANC.

Zuma has also crafted the same plea, with a bit of customisation. Zuma has maintained that the corruption charges against him are meant to punish him for radical economic policies that he stumbled upon towards the end of his presidency. The former president has been defiant with some of his remarks, bordering on slandering the ANC for feeding him to the wolves.

The current leadership of the ANC lacks the necessary resolve to reign in Zuma. This also applies to Mahumapelo: who knows that the top leadership of the ANC is too divided to act against him.

If President Cyril Ramaphosa openly lobbies for Mahumapelo's removal, he will be accused of listening to opposition parties and other enemies of the ANC who have been calling for Mahumapelo's removal. If removed, Mahumapelo will have time to team up with the Zuma faction that is wreaking havoc in KwaZulu-Natal. ANC chairperson Ace Magashule, who is also under pressure due to allegations of corruption, will also join in. This will be a powerful reunion that will certainly destabilise Ramaphosa's leadership.

Failure to remove Mahumapelo will also be costly for the ANC in the forthcoming 2019 elections. The ANC cannot go into the elections with Mahumapelo as the premier of the North West. That will not only undermine Ramaphosa's "new dawn" but will infuriate North West communities who might in turn punish the ANC for having imposed a compromised Mahumapelo as a candidate.

The opposition parties are aware of a low hanging political fruit in the North West. By supporting the call for Mahumapelo's exit, the DA is aware that such a step will make it difficult for the ANC to recall him. I think the DA prays that Mahumapelo stays put a little longer as premier; just to show the communities of the North West that the ANC leadership cares more about protecting their own than listening to the concerns of the broader communities.

The last time the ANC ignored communities' views regarding a leader, they lost control of the City of Tshwane in the 2016 local government elections. It is not unthinkable that the Mahumapelo saga will have an impact on the 2019 elections if not resolved speedily.

To expect Mahumapelo to resign, or for Zuma to plead guilty to charges of corruption and stop dragging everyone else in it, is to expect these two men to throw away their only remaining don't go to jail card. The main concern about the ANC leaders who are facing corruption charges is not about how they leave office, it is about where they tend to go.

The fear that Mahumapelo might cause problems for the party by re-aligning with the KZN faction is such a scary thought for Ramaphosa's leadership that he is better kept in the North West as a premier. After all, what's the worst that could happen in the North West under Mahumapelo?

The ANC has quickly moved from Ramaphosa and Zuma factions to newer factions: the investigated and the investigation instigators. What is happening in KZN and the North West should concern the ANC a great deal. The party cannot afford to go into the elections with two recalcitrant provinces.

- Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes.


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Read more on:    anc  |  supra mahumapelo  |  mahikeng


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