Pietermaritzburg - KwaZulu-Natal Judge president Chiman Patel swore in members of the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.
They were sworn in – in batches of five members – starting with the members of the ANC.
By 10am the members had started taking their seats in the house and were later going to elect the speaker, the deputy speaker and the premier.
Lydia Johnson was to be elected Speaker while Meshack Radebe was to be sworn in as deputy Speaker. Radebe, is the first casualty of an expected reshuffling of the provincial executive (cabinet). Radebe is the former Agriculture and Environmental Affairs MEC.
The inauguration of Mchunu as provincial premier is expected to be held on Monday after which he will announce his new executive
Many of the members were in high spirits exchanging pleasantries with their political rivals. Provincial leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Vusi Khoza, made good on his promise of wearing red overalls and a matching construction hard hat. The other representative of the EFF, Thembi Msane, came wearing a red domestic workers’ uniform.
The public also filled the gallery with many others watching the proceedings on the giant screen set outside. Two left lanes of Langalibalele (Longmarket) Street, where the giant screen was set up, were closed to traffic. Supporters of the NFP had also gathered on the street waving party flags in support of the six NFP members who were also to be sworn in.
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal opted for continuity when it confirmed Mchunu as premier and Johnson as Speaker of the provincial legislature.
Political analyst, Zakhele Ndlovu, believes the ANC, in its choice for premier, was motivated by a need to ensure continuity and to retain what has become a tradition in the province.
“If you look at all the past KZN premiers, Sibusiso Ndebele and Zweli Mkhize, they were ANC chairpersons when they were appointed. So it made sense for the ANC to appoint Mchunu, who is the party’s chairman. Claims that two centres of power damaged the ANC in Gauteng may also have merit and this would have been taken into consideration.”
Ndlovu said that because Mchunu was once associated with the anti-Zuma faction before the Mangaung conference, anything short of an appointment to the top post would have looked like a purge.
Sihle Zikalala, the provincial secretary of the ANC, said Mchunu’s selection as premier was proof that the ANC had faith that his experience and expertise would take KZN to greater heights.
But the two main opposition parties in the province, the IFP and the DA, were not as impressed with the selection of Mchunu.
Blessed Gwala, the IFP’s national chairman, said during Mchunu’s eight months as premier he had done very little to ensure a good working relationship with smaller parties.
He said since taking over, Mchunu had never given the IFP a chance to sit down with him and discuss “bread and butter issues” affecting people of the province.
“The ANC was so strategic in selecting Mchunu as premier for KZN merely because he is an expert in stifling anything that comes from the opposition parties,” Gwala said.
He also said he was not confident Mchunu had what it took to tackle corruption.
The DA’s Sizwe Mchunu also said his party did not endorse Senzo Mchunu’s appointment as premier. The DA raised concerns last year when he was first appointed.
“We did not endorse him when he was elected premier eight months ago and we don’t believe that he is a hands-on premier. This province needs a hands on premier,” said the DA leader.
The DA’s Mchunu was himself elected leader of his caucus, which means he will become leader of the official opposition in KZN.