It is sad when a party loses talented people. It is sadder when one has worked for decades to build a party to see it teetering on the brink of a major setback.
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
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
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
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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