Rocky start for Zikalala

2019-05-23 09:11
Sihle Zikalala.

Sihle Zikalala.

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The KZN Legislature on Wednesday elected ANC provincial chair Sihle Zikalala as premier amid concerns by opposition parties that he is a divisive figure who will polarise the province.

The election of Harry Gwala District Mayor Mluleki Ndobe as deputy speaker was also immediately criticised. Ndobe was arrested, and later released, in connection with the murder of former ANCYL secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa.

Zikalala was confirmed in his post by KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Achmat Jappie after the former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) provincial leader was nominated unopposed during the KZN legislature’s sitting in Pietermaritzburg.

However, in his acceptance speech, which was supposed to offer a unifying message after a brusing election campaign, Zikalala angered opposition parties by only acknowledging former ANC premiers.

Despite the fact that the first premier of the province at the advent of democracy in 1994 was an IFP member, Zikalala in his speech made no mention of any of the former IFP premiers and only acknowledged former ANC Premiers Sbu Ndebele, Zweli Mkhize, Senzo Mchunu and Willies Mchunu.

IFP caucus leader Velenkosini Hlabisa, who had earlier pledged to assist Zikalala and the KZN government in addressing some of the key challenges facing the province, said Zikalala failed to rise to the high standards required of a premier.

“It is not a good sign of the spirit of the province and does not augur well for the citizens of KwaZulu-Natal.

“Zikalala must know that he cannot rewrite the history of this province: hatred if not immaturity will make him mislead the province of KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.

Zikalala, Hlabisa said, was bound to fail as premier should he continue to see himself as an ANC premier.

DA provincial caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango said the DA had long been concerned about Zikalala’s ability to unite the people of the province.

“As the DA we have been warning that making Zikalala a premier would be a big mistake, given his attitude towards the opposition and citizens who don’t support the ANC,” he said.

Apart from Zikalala’s acceptance speech, the IFP, which took over from the DA as the province’s official opposition, was also concerned about the ANC’s decision to elect Ndobe as the provincial legislature’s deputy speaker.

In March Ndobe, who will deputise for newly elected Speaker Nontembeko Boyce, spent several days in jail after being arrested in connection with the murder of Magaqa.

Even though the murder charge against Ndobe has since been provisionally withdrawn, Hlabisa said the fact that the charges could be reinstated at any moment rendered Ndobe ineligible for appointment to such a senior public office.

“Our view is that it would have been better if the matter went on trial and he was not found guilty.

“But as things stand there are still question marks around him,” he said.

Approached for comment, Ndobe declined to go into details about his arrest, saying the ANC has dealt with the matter.

Zikalala described the opposition’s concerns around him and Ndobe as “grandstanding”.

“As the ANC we said we will welcome a robust debate in the provincial legislature.

“What the opposition is saying is not backed by facts,” he said.

Zikalala, who is currently putting together a provincial cabinet that he will unveil soon, conceded that support from the various sectors of society was critical if the provincial government were to succeed.

“These are huge responsibilities but with the support of members of the legislature, our partners in the labour movement, business community and civil society as well as citizens, … our duty will be made much easier,” he said.

Zikalala will be officially sworn in as KZN premier on Monday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  sihle zikalala
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