Premier Mchunu ‘wants out’

2016-09-30 09:28
ANC provincial chair Zikalala touted to take over after rumours of pending cabinet reshuffle.

ANC provincial chair Zikalala touted to take over after rumours of pending cabinet reshuffle. (Theuns Kruger, Graphics24)

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Barely five months after being sworn in as the KwaZulu-Natal premier, Willies Mchunu looks set to be on his way out.

Although the ANC in the province has denied rumours of a pending cabinet reshuffle, several sources have claimed the province will soon be getting a new premier and two new MECs.

It is said that the Education, and Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs departments would be affected by the latest reshuffle, should it materialise.

The two departments were affected by the cabinet reshuffle carried out in June when veteran MECs Peggy Nkon­yeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu were axed.

Sources close to the developments say Mchunu, who contemplated retiring from politics in 2013, when he lost the contest for the ANC chairpersonship to former premier Senzo Mchunu, will retire soon.

An insider said Mchunu’s retirement would pave the way for ANC provincial chairperson and Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala to take the reins of the province.

When Willies Mchunu replaced Senzo Mchunu earlier this year, he was said to be merely holding the fort for Zikalala, rumoured to be the premier-in-waiting since defeating Senzo for the position of ANC provincial chairperson in November last year.

“[Willies Mchunu] wants out. Since taking over from Senzo, there are things that he has been made to do that he was against,” the insider said.

Mchunu was reportedly against axing Mabuyakhulu, who spent 17 of his 22 years in the legislature as MEC.

“There are things happening at the moment that he is not happy with. There are people demanding jobs, saying they campaigned for the current leadership and now it is their time to eat. He is too old for this. He is a disciplined senior ANC member and is not happy with some of the decisions taken by the new leadership,” said the source.

Another source, who works in the Department of Transport, where Willies Mchunu was the MEC until becoming premier in June this year, said his health had also deteriorated over the years and he did not need “more stress”.

“He is 68. A lot has happened to him. He lost his wife, mother and father this year,” said the source.

Should Zikalala emerge as the new premier, it is expected that Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana would take over as the new Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC.

ANC provincial executive committee member Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu would replace Dlungwana as the new Education MEC. Simelane-Zulu was reported to be on the verge of taking over from former Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni when the cabinet was reshuffled in June.

“She was sacrificed at the eleventh hour because the PEC wanted to accommodate Themba [Mthembu, the Agriculture and Rural Development MEC],” said an insider.

Mthembu, the provincial SACP secretary and a critic of the ANC KZN leadership, was not on the initial list of MECs to be appointed when the cabinet was reshuffled. Political analysts said his name was included at the last minute, as a ploy to get him to tone down his criticism.

Zikalala caused a stir in the provincial legislature shortly after being elected ANC provincial chairperson when he took the seat usually occupied by the premier (Senzo Mchunu at the time). The ANC said at the time there was nothing untoward in the move because the seat was reserved for the leader of the ruling party.

However, he gave up the seat to Senzo Mchunu after a few sittings.

Asked to comment on the rumours, the premier’s spokesperson, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said: “The premier was deployed by the ANC. We prefer that you contact the ANC office.”

ANC provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said there had been no discussion about a cabinet reshuffle.

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has rejected rumours on social media that the nation’s cabinet has been reshuffled, his office said on Thursday.

“President Zuma strongly condemns this malicious dissemination of untruthful information by people who do not have the interests of the country at heart,” his office said in a statement

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  cabinet reshuffle

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