Barely a month after he was elected as the premier of the Free State, Mxolisi Dukwana reshuffled his cabinet and fired three MECs on Tuesday.
Falling short of a wholesale removal of all the old MECs, Dukwana announced the appointment of five new MECs while retaining four members who had served under the administration of his predecessor, Sisi Ntombela. The MEC for agriculture is expected to be announced after the finalisation of the consultative processes.
Ntombela resigned last month following pressure from the ANC after she was accused of failing to lead the government. This paved the way for newly elected ANC chairperson Dukwana to succeed her.
After he was elected as the premier, Dukwana made his intention clear that he was going to reshuffle his cabinet, citing pressure from the community for service delivery.
READ: Dukwana sworn in as the new Free State premier
According to PEC members, Dukwana wanted to reshuffle his cabinet a week ago but had to delay the process following the passing of education MEC Tate Makgoe. The MEC, who was buried on Sunday, died in a car accident with his protector two weeks ago. Makgoe’s car hit two cattle on the N1 south near Winburg.
Dukwana announced the replacement of the late education MEC. He also appointed ANC provincial deputy chairperson Ketso Makume as the cooperative governance, traditional affairs and human settlements MEC, a position which was vacant after he was elected as the premier in February.
Makume was sworn in as one of the members of the legislature on Monday, alongside Dibolelo Mahlatsi, Mathabo Leeto and Maqueen Letsoha-Mathae. He was also one of the people who were interviewed for the position of the premier before Dukwana was appointed last month.
READ: Three ANC members in FS suspended as province prepares to swear in Dukwana as new premier
However, City Press has learnt that Dukwana decided not to name the MEC for agriculture because he was still trying to find a suitable person for the position.
“We don’t know why he went on to announce the rest but cannot name the MEC for agriculture and rural development, because he has all the people he wanted in the PEC,” said one insider.
Dukwana fired MEC for community safety, roads and transport William Bulwane and replaced him with Letsoha-Mathae.
He appointed Leeto to replace Montseng Tsiu and appointed Tshidi Koli to replace Motlahomang Qabathe as social development MEC.
READ: Three candidates interviewed to replace Sisi Ntombela as premier of the Free State
Although Thabo Meeko was not in the PEC of the province, Dukwana appointed him as the MEC for economic and small business development, tourism, and environmental affairs.
However, the appointment of Meeko, the former ANCYL regional chairperson, has raised questions about the criteria he was chosen for, ahead of PEC members. One PEC member said the appointment of Meeko was to have representation of young people in government.
Among the people that Dukwana decided to retain are Gadija Brown, the MEC for finance, and Limakatso Mahasa, the MEC for sport, arts, culture and recreation. The decision to retain Mahasa seems to have ignited a fire, with many artists in the Free State taking to social media to express their anger. Some artists vowed not to vote for the ANC in the 2024 national election after accusing her of being "useless".
Motshedise Koloi was moved from public works to social development. Makalo Mohale was moved from economic and small business development, tourism, and environmental affairs to the department of education.
Dukwana said the changes were inspired by pressure from the people of the Free State:
The ANC in the province said they noted and welcomed the reconfiguration of the Free State executive council (Exco).
"It is our considered view that these changes will accelerate and deepen our advance towards a responsive, people-centred and accountable government," said ANC spokesperson Jabu Mbalula.
He said the ANC in the Free State wanted to reiterate its stance that all deployees must, in all their areas of deployment, put the people first.
"This restructuring of the Exco comes at a crucial time when the people need the ANC as a tool to liberate themselves from the shackles of poverty, inequality and unemployment."
READ: Premier and several MECs face the axe
"We are confident that the collective announced today, under the capable leadership of Premier Mxolisi Dukwana, shall immediately get in motion towards implementing the priorities as outlined in the resolutions of our lekgotla, as well as other important policies, decisions and resolutions of our glorious movement," said Mbalula.