Limpopo head’s days numbered

Johannesburg - Co-ordinated efforts to remove Stan Mathabatha as premier of Limpopo are gaining pace in what is expected to cause serious headaches in Luthuli House about who should take over the job.

Among those who have angled to take the reins from him is Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, although the parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of the SABC is expected to make this difficult.

The ANC Youth League in Limpopo has promised to “have a braai and celebrate” when the news breaks of Mathabatha’s exit.

Zuma given reasons

The league is among individuals and alliance groups that have been calling for Mathabatha’s head and accusing him of failing to steer the province – both the provincial government and the ANC as provincial chairperson – in the right direction.

“He is the worst premier by far.

“He is not building any legacy for the youth and frankly has got no time or showed no interest when he had to meet us and discuss issues affecting the youth in the province,” said provincial youth league spokesperson Matome Moremi.

While the youth league and National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), specifically the branch in the premier’s office, have been calling for Mathabatha’s removal, City Press has learnt that a group of “concerned comrades”, most of whom are known Mathabatha detractors, have silently moved for and given President Jacob Zuma reasons for seeking the premier’s removal.

A parallel group of party veterans in the province as well as former mayors and MECs is also preparing a submission to Zuma, calling for the same.

Two members of that group said among their reasons was that Mathabatha has “failed to unite the party in the province” and also cited his “poor leadership in government”.

He is also accused by the groups of being an “absent premier” who is “either late or never attends state functions”.

Mathabatha did not attend the official opening of the Limpopo High Court in November, which Zuma was initially scheduled to attend.

Mathabatha said at the time he had a “competing commitment in Gauteng” and could not attend despite the president’s presence.

Invisible premier

Some senior government officials who spoke to City Press a few days ago said that while in the province, one national minister recently asked “why the premier was always late”.

“In most cases his name is put on the programme with little confidence as to whether he will show up and there is always a contingency plan in place just in case he doesn’t,” the official said. “He delegates all the time and often appoints an acting premier to attend functions on his behalf while he is still in the province.”

Moremi charged that Mathabatha was “still hung up on his former position as an ambassador and prefers to dine and wine as well as cutting ribbons.

“You know, ambassadors don’t know hard work; they host people, wine and dine and if there’s anything our current premier will be best [at, it is] as an administrator somewhere where there is no politics.”

Mathabatha, however, denied that he was an “invisible premier”, saying he has attended at least 80% of his government and political commitments.

He also said he was not aware of any plans to recall him amid claims by some ANC insiders that he was aware of them and preparing himself to leave.

“No one has ever asked me whether I want to stay or vacate the position. I am an ANC deployee and if the organisation says I must go, I will do just that and if I am told to remain, I will still abide because I didn’t apply for this job,” he told City Press on Friday.

“What I know is that we have done a lot of things to unite the ANC and build this province.

“The shenanigans that were happening during the previous administrations are no longer happening. We found nothing when we came in but disbanded structures all round and had to build from scratch.”

Mathabatha said he had been an ANC member for 40 years and “I can assure you now that the ANC has never been this strong in this province”.

Those calling for his removal would not buy this, however. “We don’t want him embarrassed but the plan is to have him announce himself that he is resigning from his position for some particular reasons. That time will come,” said one concerned group member.

Late delivery of school books

Also calling for his head is union Nehawu in Mathabatha’s office who said he had failed to attend to most of the issues raised with his office.

They promised to “mobilise other branches” and do to him what they did to former premier Cassel Mathale, getting rid of him through lunch-time pickets and other protests.

“It will be in workers’ interests if the premier can leave. We had confidence in him and had hoped he will turn things around but we’re back to square one where nepotism, corruption and maladministration still reigns to the highest degree and it all becomes evident in audit outcomes,” said Nehawu branch chairperson Norman Mavhunga.

Two ANC provincial executive committee members said Mathabatha’s recall had not been tabled within the party. But they both said concerns existed about Mathabatha’s leadership and they were aware of a serious campaign to have him removed.

“He is equally aware and is ready for it.

“He was brought in to stabilise the province both in the ANC and government but has failed and there was no hope given the factional tendencies that were escalating daily in the party,” one provincial executive committee (PEC) member said.

“Under him we’ve had regression in almost everything from performance of municipalities to a drop in matric results and the late delivery of school books continues to be a headache every year,” said another PEC member.

The official added: “He has tried but I do not think he is the right man for the job.”

Not aware of plans

The SACP in the province, in which Mathabatha serves as a central committee member, said they were not aware of any moves to remove him, but the ANC had to decide his fate because it had deployed him.

SACP provincial secretary Gilbert Kganyago said: “We hope that [his removal] will not be for malicious reasons but evidence-based that he couldn’t perform as head of government and not removed to get someone who will drive any campaign towards [the ANC elective conference in] December 2017.”

While many hope Mathabatha will be axed, others are already worried about who will fill his shoes.

“Appointing Muthambi will divide the province even further and attract a lot of media attention given what is happening now in her department. We have experienced and qualified comrades who can take us forward and we’re not expecting the appointment to be in line with any faction towards the elective conference but the interests of the people of this province,” said one PEC member.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa denied knowledge of any discussions taking place around Mathabatha’s removal. “We’re not even aware,” he said.

Muthambi’s spokesperson, Mish Molakeng, said: “As a matter of principle, the ministry of communications does not respond to rumours and innuendo.”

ANC Limpopo spokesperson Aluwani Netsianda said they were not aware of plans to remove Mathabatha. “It is not on the agenda of any of our structures and as far as we’re concerned the premier shall serve his full term of office. Any rumour to the contrary is just mischievous.”

Who do you think will replace Mathabatha as premier of Limpopo?

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