Mahlalela bears no grudges

2002-03-25 19:31

Nelspruit - Mpumalanga's new outspoken African National Congress (ANC) chairperson Fish Mahlalela has pledged a civil, co-operative relationship with his predecessor and the province's current premier, Ndaweni Mahlangu.

Mahlalela made the pledge at his first press conference as provincial chairperson on Monday.

Attempting to downplay earlier animosity between the two, Mahlalela said he held no grudges against Mahlangu for his dismissal from the province's executive council last year.

Mahlangu dismissed Mahlalela from the provincial cabinet on alleged mismanagement charges in 2001, after the outspoken local government MEC attempted to spearhead a corruption probe against key Mahlangu supporters.

"Premiers have the Constitutional right to remove MECs at any stage. He was dissatisfied, and so he acted. I accepted my redeployment at the time, so there is no animosity between us," said Mahlalela.

Mahlalela unseated Mahlangu with an overwhelming 261 votes at the ANC provincial conference on Saturday. Mahlangu, who could only secure 98 votes, also lost his seat on the party's provincial executive committee (PEC).

"Mahlangu will therefore be appointed as an ex-officio member of the PEC and provincial working committee. He will not, however, be able to vote," said Mahlalela.

Mpumalanga's five other MECs who failed to be re-elected to the PEC will also be awarded non-voting ex-officio seats on the body to ensure that government and party policies are synchronised. Mahlalela's victory marks a coup for his faction, with all his most powerful supporters seizing key party posts.

Controversial former environmental affairs MEC David Mkhwanazi capitalised on his leadership of the provincial SA National Civic Organisation to secure the ANC's treasury position, while known Mahlalela supporter Lucas Mello was appointed provincial ANC secretary.

Mahlalela insisted that Mkhwanazi's questionable past and lacklustre performance in government were irrelevant to his new position. Mkhwanazi was named in both the irregular R25 billion Dolphin deal and R1.3 billion promissory notes scandal, and has been slated by the Auditor General and various other investigation agencies in a litany of smaller corruption scandals.

"Mkhwanazi's responsibilities [in government] and the tasks he will be doing now are completely unrelated. You cannot use the one to judge the other," said Mahlangu.

Disgraced former education MEC David Mabuza, who presided over the province's matric exam fraud scandal in 1999, won a seat in the PEC, but failed to take the secretary position.

He was instead beaten by 'clean government' candidate and Mpumalanga legislature speaker William Lubisi. Lubisi, who was supported by the pro-Mathews Phosa camp, said on Monday that the new party executive would strive to rebuild party membership while also strengthening the youth and women's leagues.

The entire new PEC will meet at a closed 'legotla' or planning session near Nelspruit within the next month to develop new strategies and prioritise programmes. - African Eye News Service