Ralph Mathekga

Why the ANC in North West could be heading into groundbreaking territory

2018-05-14 08:06
Supra Mahumapelo has indicated that he will resign. (Frennie Shivambu, Gallo Images, file)

Supra Mahumapelo has indicated that he will resign. (Frennie Shivambu, Gallo Images, file)

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The latest instalment in the ongoing North West saga is the decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to place the province under administration.

It is very clear that Premier Supra Mahumapelo has no plan to listen to anyone calling for his removal, including his political bosses in Luthuli House. The move by Ramaphosa is aimed simply at cutting off Mahumapelo's oxygen so he can begin to cooperate with Luthuli House.

With all major decisions about spending money and making payments now left to the task team that would take over key functions in the province, Mahumapelo will begin to run aground and possibly abandon ship in the province. This is how it is all expected to unfold unless Mahumapelo launches a fightback campaign, which I think he is likely to.

The last time the ANC national leadership took over the running of a province on a large scale was back in 2011 when former president Jacob Zuma marched into Limpopo and placed five departments under national administration. While there were genuine concerns related to widespread financial impropriety in Limpopo by then, Zuma's decision was also meant to reign in then premier Cassel Mathale who – together with you-know-who – allegedly bankrupted the province in a tender rampage episode to have hit my home province.

Just as was the case with the Limpopo saga, the North West story is a mixture of genuine concerns to address financial impropriety which resulted in the collapse of service delivery in the province and the political machination to deal with an unwanted provincial leadership whose continued existence poses a threat to the ANC in the 2019 elections. There are, however, major differences between the then decision to place Limpopo under administration and the reported attempt to play the same card against North West.

When Zuma placed Limpopo under a caretaker government in 2011, he was fully in charge of the party and he encountered no significant resistance to his decision. The situation that Ramaphosa confronts in relation to North West is quite dicey.

The national leadership of the party seems not to be united on what to do with Mahumapelo, hence the North West ANC leadership under Mahumapelo might mount a resistance that is backed by some within the national leadership of the party. It has always been my view that the reasons put forward by the ANC when placing Limpopo under administration in 2011, could have been challenged in court if the province was under control of a different party.

Thus, had it not been for the hegemony and clear domination of the national leadership of the ANC back in 2011, the provincial leadership of the party in Limpopo could have approached the courts to challenge the decision.

The last few weeks have shown beyond any doubt that North West is run by a franchise of the ANC which sees itself as autonomous from the national leadership of the party. The only things that Mahumapelo's provincial executive seems to share with the national leadership of the ANC are the brand and insignia.

If that is the case, which I think it is, the ANC in North West will most likely not accept the decision to place their franchise under administration. Mahumapelo and his allies will most likely make a case that they should be allowed to remain in business. We might for the first time see the ANC in a province contesting the decision by the national government to place a province under administration.

What makes things more complicated for Ramaphosa is the fact that provinces are actually not satellite offices of national government; they are an autonomous sphere of government with clearly defined constitutional authority to carry out their political mandates. This means that national government cannot arbitrarily or whimsically walk into a province and declare intervention whenever it is politically expedient to do so.

The unfortunate part in this saga is that even crooks are entitled to question the constitutional basis of any intervention by national government into provinces. The North West saga is not ending, it has only reached a new level which could prove even more difficult for the ANC to manage.

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.

 Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    anc  |  supra mahumapelo  |  north west province
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