The battle for premier

Two vacancies for premierships and one for ANC provincial chairperson have opened as a result of Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza being elected ANC deputy president, Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile becoming treasurer-general and Ace Magashule being elevated to secretary-general.

City Press looks at their likely successors in the three provinces.


Free State Premier Ace Magashule has hinted that a close ally will succeed him as he prepares to leave the province to take up full-time duties as ANC secretary-general.

Among the two allies he named as possible premiers is sports, arts and culture MEC Mathabo Leeto.

Leeto was accused of alleged multimillion-rand fraud and racketeering, irregular tender processes and abuse of public funds. She was cleared in 2016.

She faced 200 charges relating to her tenure as the executive mayor of Matjhabeng Local municipality between 2007 and 2009.

But the Welkom District Court withdrew the 200 charges of alleged fraud, corruption, money laundering and accepting bribes in 2016 after Leeto made representations asking for a review of the decision to charge her.

ANC insiders considered her a staunch Magashule loyalist.

Leeto was named with Sam Mashinini, the MEC for police, roads and transport, as one of the “capable cadres”. Magashule said had no qualms about either of them taking over as premier.

Magashule used the funeral of a close associate and friend this week – Sandile Msibi – to warn anyone plotting to wrestle over his former position to take a backseat because “we will put the premier we want”.

“There is no one who will fight to become premier here. We will put the premier we want.”

Magashule made it clear that he is in a strategic position as the second most powerful person in the party and can influence deployments.

He took a swipe at heads of departments who think they can run ahead to become premiers, saying they must just stay in their lane.

Some of Magashule’s opponents in the ANC were relieved that he was leaving the province.

Deputy chair of the ANC’s now nullified Free State leadership under Magashule, Thabo Manyoni told City Press it was an opportunity for branches of the ANC to rebuild and unite.

“We no longer have to belong to factions, we can be exemplary to others if we all just unite. It’s not just about a person but the perception of corruption.”

Manyoni, a friend turned nemesis of Magashule, had for some time had running battles and tried to unseat him.

Manyoni still wants to take over the ANC provincial chairperson and was waiting for the finalisation of a new date for the rerun of the nullified elective conference. But he admitted Magashule’s exit would not mean an easy walk in the park for him.

He “congratulated” the former chair on his appointment but said his exit did not mean that political battles in the province were over.

Manyoni was among those who cried foul about irregularities in the nominations process leading to the party’s December conference where 
some branches were barred from participating.

Manyoni said the new NEC would appoint a provincial task team “of men and women of integrity” to lead them. - Hlengiwe Nhlabathi


New ANC deputy president David Mabuza’s former rival, Peter Nyoni, has thrown his name into the hat to succeed him as Mpumalanga’s premier.

He is the only one who has publicly agreed to stand, after ANC members lobbied him.

Other names, which have been bandied about for the position, include former Mbombela mayor and current National Council of Provinces member Cathy Dlamini, Mpumalanga safety and security MEC Pat Ngomane and provincial public works MEC Sasekani Manzini.

Dlamini, Ngomane and Manzini have not yet started campaigning. However, Nyoni’s supporters announced their intentions this week and launched a social media campaign.

Before his election to the ANC’s top six last month, Mabuza was provincial ANC chairperson for nine years and premier for eight years.

Nyoni said this week that his intention had been to wait for ANC members to lobby him first.

“Since they have done so, I have accepted their request to stand.”

Nyoni lobbyist William Nkatha said Nyoni had been a consistent ANC member who was not shy to raise injustices and manipulation of internal party processes.

“Mpumalanga needs an individual of his calibre to lead and unite the ANC in the province. Nyoni stands by the principles of the organisation.

"He respects the organisation’s processes and, as you know, he has been expelled before, but continued to advocate for unity, even though he was not given the platform to do so,” Nkatha said.

Nyoni was considered a dissident and had run-ins with Mabuza’s camp.

When Mabuza was re-elected for his third term as provincial chairperson in December 2015, Nyoni and other ANC members started a protest group called Save Mpumalanga ANC.

Its members were concerned about Mabuza’s grip on power, particularly after his camp in all regions and in the provincial executive committee (PEC) pushed for a resolution earlier in 2015, that he should not face other challengers when standing for a third term.

Unsurprisingly, Mabuza was elected unopposed.

When the PEC found out about Nyoni’s association with the Save Mpumalanga ANC through a secretly recorded audio tape, he was dismissed as a PEC member.

Nyoni was among the top provincial human settlements department executives Mabuza removed in 2013, for saying the reason they did not deliver RDP houses was because their focus was on politics.

Mabuza, however, reconciled with Nyoni last year, when he publicly admitted that he had been a factionalist.

Nyoni was appointed to head the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department in August 2016.

Nyoni is a former Ehlanzeni regional deputy chairperson.

Nkatha said PEC and alliance members were being consulted about Nyoni’s bid to lead the province.

Manzini had received endorsement from the Practical and Radical Economic Transformation (Pret) group – a non-governmental organisation close to Mabuza.

Pret campaigns for jobs for youth, but recently made a foray into politics.

Nobody had publicly expressed support for Dlamini and Ngomane.

City Press however understands that branches in Nkomazi – the biggest subregion in the province – had been in talks with Dlamini.

Provincial ANC secretary Mandla Ndlovu said a date for the sitting of a provincial general council to replace Mabuza and his deputy Violet Siwela, had not been decided.

Siwela was elected on to the ANC’s national executive committee. - Sizwe sama Yende


The ANC in Gauteng is bracing itself for a smooth transition with the province’s second-in-command, David Makhura, already earmarked to take over from Paul Mashatile as provincial chairperson.

When Makhura moves this will create a vacancy in his current position of deputy.

Johannesburg ANC chairperson and former mayor Parks Tau is touted as the possible deputy – with Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, economic development MEC Lebogang Maile and former Tshwane mayor Sputla Ramokgopa.

ANC spokesperson Khusela Diko will be considered for one of the top positions.

The Gauteng succession plan that includes Makhura stepping into Mashatile’s shoes has long been known and when Makhura turned down an NEC nomination at the conference last month, the writing was on the wall.

It is expected Makhura will serve two terms.

Mashatile’s exit to national office means the province could be forced to move forward its October elective conference to fill the vacancies, including that left by provincial secretary Gwen Ramokgopa and three other PEC members who have also been elected into the ANC’s national executive committee.

This means branches would need to be convened to elect their preferred leaders which, in itself, was a laborious process dependent on the quorum at meetings.

ANC spokesperson Sam Modiba said the province would have to sit for its first PEC meeting to draw up a roadmap on the process moving forward in terms of replacements and their upcoming elective conference.

That meeting will sit only after the ANC’s January 8 celebrations in East London next week, he said.

Regional leaders, chairpersons and secretaries are very influential in as far as moving upwards in the province.

In previous months Ekurhuleni chairperson Mzwandile Masina was said to have set his eyes for a position in the province’s top job but 
this talk has now died down.

Masina, who left a ministerial position to become mayor of the country’s industrial metro, was said to have chosen his successor as he had contemplated not finishing his term in a bid to become the chairperson and premier.

Mashatile leaves behind a province which was the first to challenge the ANC by calling for Zuma to consider resigning.

The province also refused to have what it considered a discredited and controversial leader as the face of the election campaign in 2016 when the party lost three metros including Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane.

It is also a province that the opposition DA has targeted to win in next year’s national and provincial elections.

Now Mashatile faces a daunting task at Luthuli House, where he will serve on a permanent basis, with his first big task to take a technically insolvent ANC out of the red and raising funds for the 2019 elections.

The organisation is R215m in debt and had a deficit of R47m in the past financial year.

This debt is set to balloon because of the election and the campaigning that goes with it. - Hlengiwe Nhlabathi


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