Gauteng premier and ANC provincial chair David Makhura used his closing remarks at the provincial executive committee (PEC) lekgotla last weekend to warn that increasing factionalism had the potential to destroy the governing party in the province.
Makhura cautioned against “debilitating factionalism, where plotting against one another is the predominant mode of political discourse”.
Makhura told the meeting that infighting had become so destructive that the party had stopped focusing on its mandate to serve its constituency.
“The lekgotla raised deep concerns on how debilitating factionalism is resurging as one of the major risks facing the entire movement in our province. This destructive tendency is creating an environment where public spats and attacks on one another are becoming the manner of conducting politics in our province. We must accept that as a province, we are drifting towards a dangerous cliff by becoming inward-looking and self-absorbed in senseless internal battles,” he said.
Makhura added that the internal battles were happening in full view of voters.
“The masses are sick and tired of a movement and an alliance that tears itself apart and appears to be at war with itself,” he said.
His remarks come amid a heightened leadership battle for the control of Gauteng, South Africa’s economic hub, by factions within the province.
Last week, City Press reported that according to some PEC members, a faction supporting Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebogang Maile wants him to replace Makhura, who they want to leave early and on a sour note.
A source suggested that Maile had enough support to unseat the premier.
“It’s not looking good for Makhura. What is happening here is that we are all looking at the end of Makhura’s term,” the source said.
Maile has denied the claim, saying no one should conduct themselves wrongly in his name.
The opposing faction is believed to have been planning to use Makhura’s implication in Covid-19 personal protective equipment corruption as part of its argument for his removal, following an initial ruling by the Special Investigating Unit’s Special Tribunal that appeared to connect him to the PPE scandal.
However, Makhura succeeded in persuading the Special Tribunal to amend parts of an affidavit which implicated him in PPE procurement irregularities.
A judgment handed down by the Special Tribunal last week stated that Makhura was correct in asserting that he did not provide names of companies which received PPE contracts and that it was the premier’s office instead that had been accused of this.
“I have, on receipt of the premier’s application, realised that the omission of the words ‘office of’ before ‘the premier’ and ‘the MEC’ in the judgment text is capable of being construed to mean that the tribunal has found or decided that it was the premier personally or the MEC personally who supplied the names. There was no such decision or finding made on the allegations,” Judge Sewele Mothle ruled.
Sources in the ANC previously told City Press that the same faction was pressing Makhura to act against Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, whose department is embroiled in questionable Covid-19 expenditure around school sanitation.
Lesufi is Makhura’s deputy in the ANC and therefore a likely successor. The faction believes that Makhura has failed to lead the province properly and that corruption in Gauteng is on the rise under his leadership.
In his speech, Makhura also warned senior government officials who attended the lekgotla against being used as pawns for corruption by politicians.
“I have a specific message to all those who are senior managers and administrative heads in the ANC-led administration at local and provincial government level. We invited you here because we understand your role in service delivery. You must do the job you are paid to do without any fear.
“You must do your job transparently and ethically because the ANC’s transformation policies are not a secret. There is no need for brown envelopes. Don’t ever take instructions to appoint any particular service provider. You must understand the policy and the law about economic transformation and employment equity,” he told the lekgotla.
The premier also warned that infighting would serve no one.
“Some of the world’s best progressive movements and transformative parties have fallen victim to one or all of these destructive tendencies and they got destroyed, leaving the system they sought to destroy intact and untransformed. These are the risks facing every movement that is genuinely about change. The internal plotting and divisions have nothing to do with the plight of the people and the cause of the revolution,” he said.
“[It has] nothing to do with the interests of the working class and the poor; nothing to do with the wellbeing of millions of women suffering from patriarchy and other manifestations such as gender-based violence and femicide; nothing to do with aspirations of the millions of unemployed young people who have been failed by our economy and the global neo-liberal paradigm.”