The Free State government has instructed all government officials to abandon their posts on Wednesday to bid farewell to outgoing premier Ace Magashule and welcome the new premier Sisi Ntombela.
A leaked email from the director general of the premier's office Kopung Ralikontsane, to the province's heads of departments, he instructs government employees to leave work and instead attend a celebration rally in honour of Magashule, who is leaving the province to focus on his full-time post as ANC secretary general, and welcome his successor, who was elected premier on Tuesday.
"Kindly be advised that the premier has directed that all officials from the Free State provincial government residing within the boundaries of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality should leave their place of work at 09:00 on Wednesday March 28 to attend the inauguration of the new premier of the Free State province and bid farewell to the outgoing premier," reads the letter in News24's possession.
The event, set to take place at the Free State rugby stadium, has raised eyebrows with claims that more than R20m of state coffers had been used to cater for those in attendance.
His detractors in the province have expressed outrage and blamed him for "bringing the city to a halt" in order to officially mark his departure.
"Imagine stopping the function of government for a day in order to throw a jamboree," one said to News24.
'Opportunities to leave earlier'
Another ANC member, who has been a harsh critic of Magashule in the province Stan Molosioa has described the event as an attempt by the outgoing premier to show he still wields power in the province.
"The event is just a charade by Magashule to give an impression that he is still in power in the Free State and its new premier, but actually he is not," said Molosioa.
"He just wants to unleash people as part of his objective to show that he can still command numbers," added the ANC member.
A municipal worker told News24 that he was not happy about the event but would attend anyway.
"I think he will deliver a scathing report as he bids us farewell," said the employee who wanted to stay anonymous.
Insiders close to Magashule however, have viewed the move as an attempt to paint the secretary general in a negative light.
The Free State premier's spokesperson Tiisetso Makhele confirmed that the letter was valid.
"All staff, except those in essential services, have been given opportunities to leave earlier than normal tomorrow and Thursday. This relates to the inauguration ceremony as well as the Easter weekend," said Makhele.
'Strategic centre of power'
No employee is forced to participate and no employee will be punished if they do not leave early on any of the days.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe confirmed that the party was aware of the government event.
"From what we understand, tomorrow is a government event and that earlier after he was elected as SG it was indicated that comrade Ace Magashule will formerly vacate office at the end of March 2018. Earlier in March 2018, the ANC national working committee approved names of premiers for the Free State and Mpumalanga provinces respectively, which were later ratified by the national executive committee," said Mabe.
Mabe added that the outgoing premier did not participate in any public-sector supply chain activities. He called for those responsible for public funds to act responsibly and with caution, while considering the plight of many in the country.
Helaos told News24 that there were so many figures being bandied about that the ANC couldn't even say for sure how much was being spent on the event.
"The recently-held ANC NEC once more reaffirmed the ANC as the leader of society and a strategic centre of power, which must continue to act a reference point for all conventions that enjoy high regard in society," concluded Mabe.