President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC leadership feared a blood bath in North West if they had gone ahead and removed the defiant premier and ANC provincial chairperson Supra Mahumapelo.
After a week of upheaval in which protesters called for Mahumapelo’s immediate resignation, a heavyweight delegation led by Ramaphosa has given him a lifeline by deciding to do more consultation before taking any action.
The decision disappointed anti-Mahumapelo campaigners, who were expecting the axe to fall this weekend.
Sources in the capital Mahikeng said security personnel working at the local municipality were among those who had been recruited to defend Mahumapelo, who is accused of presiding over a corrupt administration and running down service delivery.
“Some of the security working at the local municipality are part of the plan. We have evidence in pictures. We have heard of complaints where they shot at protestors with live ammunition,” said a local source.
Outside the venue where Ramaphosa was meeting the ANC and its alliance partners, a group arrived in a bakkie and assaulted anti-Mahumapelo protesters in full view of the police.
There was also a convoy of about four cars, including a BMW X5, driving around the area removing barricades.
Described as Mahumapelo’s supporters, they were asked by the police to leave to avoid a clash with the large crowd.
“There would have been mayhem here in Mahikeng had he [Mahumapelo] been fired. Innocent people were going to die so Cyril did well,” said an official working in the provincial ANC office.
Locals claimed the bakkies involved with the “hit squad” bore number plates from outside of North West.
“Some have KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] and others Free State [number plates],” they said.
City Press has learnt that Mahumapelo, who has been warned by the intelligence services since 2015 that sidelining former allies and purging opponents would backfire, insists the uprising has nothing to do with corruption and service delivery.
He believes it is driven by his political opponents rather than disgruntled communities.
INSIDE RAMAPHOSA’S MEETING
The overwhelming sentiment in the meeting, for which Ramaphosa abruptly cut short his participation in the Commonwealth Summit, was that Mahumapelo should step down.
Those who attended the meeting said the majority of speakers wanted Mahumapelo to leave.
But he also had defenders, led by Obed Bapela, who is the main national executive committee (NEC) deployee to North West, and provincial legislature speaker Susan Dantjie.
ANC Women’s League and ANC Youth League (ANCYL) delegates also spoke out in Mahumapelo’s favour. But the ANCYL appeared divided on the matter.
The SA Communist Party (SACP), labour federation Cosatu, the SA National Civic Organisation, ANC Veterans’ League and ANC legislature caucus representative Raymond Elisha added their voices to the chorus demanding Mahumapelo’s head.
Bapela had opened the meeting by giving an overview of the latest developments in the province, including media reports that the ANC caucus was plotting to work with the opposition to vote Mahumapelo out during the Economic Freedom Fighters’ abandoned motion of no confidence against him on Tuesday.
The SACP’s Smuts Matshe followed, accusing Mahumapelo of leading a rented crowd that intimidated people who disagreed with him. Matshe said Mahumapelo had poisoned ANC branches against the alliance leaders.
When it was his time to speak, according to insiders, Mahumapelo said his political opponents had victimised him since he announced a government programme to fight and expose corruption in the province stretching back to 1994.
He said he was being targeted because he supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the ANC’s national elective conference at Nasrec and that his opponents were still suffering from “conference hangover”.
Mahumapelo said Ramaphosa’s name was being used to turn ANC members against him.
He said the violent protests this week were not about service delivery, but political wrangling in the province.
DISBAND THE EXECUTIVE
A popular proposal doing the rounds in North West and at NEC level is that Mahumapelo’s provincial executive be disbanded and no interim leadership appointed. Instead, the party’s NEC deployees, led by Bapela, would guide the province to the general elections next year. The NEC deployees in the province include Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba, Sylvia Lucas and Nkenke Kekana.
The aim of this plan would be to avoid parallel structures and to ensure that everyone participated in the election campaign.
In addition, efforts would be made to reach out to the victims of Mahumapelo’s alleged purges and bring them back into the fold.
Sources told City Press that on the sidelines of one of the NEC meetings ahead of the Nasrec conference, intelligence operatives advised Mahumapelo to mend fences with influential players such as former North West ANC deputy chairperson China Dodovu, former provincial legislature speaker Philly Mapulane and former district mayor Themba Gwabeni.
The intelligence operatives warned at that time that many ANC members were unhappy with the alleged manipulation of ANC branch delegates going to the national conference, apparently to ensure Dlamini-Zuma was elected ANC president instead of Ramaphosa.
Dodovu declined to comment to City Press. He would only confirm that he had been approached on several occasions to discuss reconciliation with Mahumapelo, but that nothing had come of it.
Mahumapelo has already questioned why he was shouldering the blame for alleged corruption in the North West health department, relating to, among other things, a dubious mobile health clinic contract.
The R180m tender was awarded to Mediosa, a Gupta-linked healthcare company which received a R30m advance payment months before it did any work.
“Why are they not talking about MEC for health? Why are they talking about the premier, because the premier doesn’t run the department?” he asked in a televised interview.
Moments after Ramaphosa announced that the ANC would only decide on Mahumapelo after due processes had been followed, Mahumapelo emerged from one of the rooms smiling and joking with the media and affording photographers an opportunity to take pictures.
However, he declined to answer any questions, saying he had been barred from doing so. He put on a brave face and appeared more calm than bothered.
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