Themba Gwabeni, has on an eye-catching suit that, from across the Mafikeng legislature, looks a shade of white. He is seated at the front row of the public gallery with the others who came to witness the election of Tebogo Job Mokgoro as the new premier of North West on Friday.
Mokgoro is about to take the place of Supra Mahumapelo, Gwabeni’s political nemesis.
Gwabeni is a former ANC mayor and he was once close to Mahumapelo until they had a falling out due to political differences.
He is tall in stature and his figure towers over those next to him in the gallery.
It is a glorious moment for him that Mahumapelo has fallen and his body language says it all. His lanky legs are spread as wide apart as the awkwardly small legislature seats could allow. His shoulders are held high, showing confidence.
The previous day Gwabeni was celebrating news that Mahumapelo had resigned as a member of the provincial legislature. But he was not entirely happy. “The ANC must now charge him,” he said, adding that the party could not wait for police investigations on a raft of criminal allegations against Mahumapelo before taking action.
He also wants the provincial ANC disbanded within 14 days time.
Mahumapelo has been accused of looting state resources but there has been no formal criminal charges against him.
Gwabeni said he trusted Mokgoro because he was not a factionalist and he will not be micromanaged by Mahumapelo – who will become Mokgoro’s boss by virtue of being ANC provincial chairperson.
He dismissed claims that Mokgoro was nominated by Mahumapelo and that they had a close relationship.
Mokgoro also hit the right notes with his maiden speech.
He committed to relentlessly deliver on the expectations of the ANC and listen to the concerns of marginalised communities in the province. He said his commitment to the people of the province included using the scarce resources available to address their concerns and not get consumed by “self-enrichment”.
Mokgoro warned against government officials continuing to be “a bunch of elites whose role is nothing but self enrichment”.
“Occupying a position of leadership is not an opportunity of self enrichment for ourselves, friends or comrades,” he said.
Mokgoro acknowledged that at the root of the social unrest that eventually pushed Mahumapelo out of office was the high level of distrust, scepticism and disappointment.
“We have made mistakes in some areas and we need to learn from these as we go on. Top of my agenda come next week is to reduce or eliminate the trust deficit between the people and government,” he said.
Mokgoro attributed the crisis that faced the province – which had no premier for almost a month since Mahumapelo stepped down – to ineffective delivery, poor leadership, corruption and wastage of resources.
He said “the cost associated with unethical conduct had huge weight on the entire government system, which gets contaminated and infected, doing huge damage”.
He promised to work tirelessly “to restore stability and certainty”.
That involved working together with the interministerial task team appointed by national government to come up with solutions for governance challenges in the province.
Mokgoro said it was time to improve service delivery.
“Let us not be slack. We have a big task ahead of us. Let us put in effort and show the people that we have heard their grievances”.