‘I heard them saying DD is dead, he’s lost his mind’ – Premier Mabuza returns

2015-11-17 16:50
Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza steps out the car for his first public appearance in two months. Picture: Sizwe sama Yende

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza steps out the car for his first public appearance in two months. Picture: Sizwe sama Yende

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Walking with a slight limp, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza made his first public appearance today before about 2 000 ANC supporters – and hinted at a reshuffle. 

Mabuza has been off sick for more than two months, and he said it has been “a long journey to come back”. The rumour mill had been in overdrive, with whispers suggesting that he had died, had a stroke, had kidney failure and that he was losing his mind. 

But today he returned to the provincial government headquarters in Mbombela amid a flurry of activity. 

When ANC members started arriving at the government complex at about 8am they found bakkies distributing yellow ANC T-shirts bearing President Jacob Zuma’s face. The members were later joined by cabinet members, provincial and regional ANC leaders and two deputy ministers – Candith Mashego-Dlamini (rural development) and Mcebisi Skwatsha (land reform). 

Mabuza walked with a limp, but he looked healthy and his voice as strong as ever like the “hurricane”, as some government officials and politicians call him for his outbursts when unhappy. 

Mabuza quashed his office’s statements that he was home resting as a result of fatigue. He said that he had been sick to the point that he could not eat, walk or talk. 

He revealed that he started feeling sick after attending his birthday party at his home village on August 28. Mabuza got worse on September 8. He spent two days at Nelspruit Mediclinic before being airlifted to Milpark hospital and later moved to a small Catholic hospital, Little Rose. 

“My health got worse. There was a time when I couldn’t walk, talk or eat anything. The president [Zuma] paid me a visit and said he was going to find me good doctors. You see me today because of those doctors. I’m grateful to the president … he did all he could for me to get better,” Mabuza said to the cheering crowd. 

The premier said he was aware that his detractors had wished him dead. 

“I heard them saying DD is dead; he has lost his mind. That’s too much hatred ... to say someone is dead while he’s alive. I’m fine and strong and I walked a very long journey to be here with you today,” Mabuza said. 

Cabinet reshuffle 

ANC Youth League deputy president, Desmond Moela, who spoke before him, said: “Comrade DD we need to see changes in the legislature and some MECs and heads of departments must fall. Some of the people are only happy with blue lights.” 

Mabuza warned that the “cat” was back. He used an isiZulu saying, “bese kuka mpunzi edla mini”, which can be loosely translated to: the bucks were eating in broad daylight. 

“What does a mouse do when the cat is away? They kept on saying the cat is not here. I hear the [youth league] saying there was no hunger, they were doing as they please. The cat is back. But I see the building is still here, which means there are still people. I’m happy we’re back together. The cat is back. The dog is back and is going to hunt,” he said. 

Ehlanzeni ANC regional chairperson Ngrayi Ngwenya told people that while Mabuza was away, the leaders were suppressing his allies. 

“We were in Egypt. It was difficult. Now we’re out of Egypt,” Ngwenya said, referring to the Bible story of Israelites who were led out of slavery by Moses to Canaan. 

Third term and national office ambitions 

Mabuza’s return meant that he was fit to stand a third term as Mpumalanga ANC provincial chairperson after a provincial general council resolved early this year that he must stand unopposed. 

The provincial elective conference was supposed to have taken place in October, but had to be deferred because of his sickness. Tentatively, it will now take place in December. 

The highly contested position is that of provincial deputy chairperson and it has caused disagreements within Mabuza’s camp. 

The Nkangala and Gert Sibande regions wanted Mpumalanga safety and security MEC Vusi Shongwe, who acted as premier during Mabuza’s sick leave, to take the position. The Ehlanzeni region was rooting for its deputy chairperson and legislature member, Pat Ngomana. 

The two regions argued that the province could not have both the chairperson and deputy coming from Ehlanzeni. 

Mabuza is part of the so-called Premier League, which is believed to be preparing to play a king-making role in the 2017 national ANC conference. He is also believed to be eyeing a top-six position as deputy president, chairperson or treasurer-general.

Read more on:    anc  |  david mabuza  |  mpumalanga

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