Gauteng premier - a game of musical chairs

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THE STAR

Premier-elect David Makhura and Ntombi Mekgwe - who first sat in the seat reserved for the premier - at the Gauteng legislature. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

 

Johannesburg - David Makhura has the unenviable task of uniting a deeply divided province plagued by factionalism - which has often meant there were two centres of power.

A shrewd politician and strategist, Makhura - who served as the ANC’s provincial secretary-general in Gauteng - was announced on Tuesday among the eight “capable premiers-elect” in the eight provinces the ANC governs.

He replaces Nomvula Mokonyane and becomes Gauteng’s sixth premier since 1994.

Makhura’s appointment was not without acrimony.

The Star can reveal that Makhura’s appointment followed a protracted process of tough negotiations often characterised by bickering between the provincial executive committee (PEC) and the national executive committee (NEC).

This resulted in the NEC’s meeting on Monday lasting late into the night, when it appeared that Human Settlements and Co-operative Governance MEC Ntombi Mekgwe would be appointed premier.

On Tuesday morning, members of the Gauteng legislature, who had gathered at the building, received text messages informing them of Mekgwe’s appointment.

Preparations for the convening of the legislature on Wednesday morning started in earnest with a rehearsal of the seating.

Mekgwe stood up and sat in the seat reserved for the premier. Makhura sat next to her in a seat reserved for the leader of government business, a position previously held by MEC for Finance Mandla Nkomfe. Mokonyane was not in the House.

However, Mekgwe’s excitement - captured in a photograph taken inside the chamber moments before she found out she was not going to be the premier - was short-lived.

Mekgwe and other ANC MPLs were called out at 3pm to a caucus meeting, where the ANC’s head of elections, Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba, informed them of the decision to appoint Makhura as premier.

Even senior legislature staff members, including secretary of the provincial legislature Peter Skosana, were told about Mekgwe’s appointment, only to be informed about the change after the ANC caucus meeting.

Mekgwe will now have to be satisfied with being speaker of the legislature.

Announcing the appointment of the premiers on Tuesday, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte - who had kicked off a media briefing at 2.30pm - admitted the decision had been a difficult process.

She said the NEC had considered issues of stability in the provinces and had tried to avoid two centres of power - something that has paralysed service delivery - in many of the provinces.

“We discussed (things) at great length, looking at strong leadership and fast-tracking service delivery and fairness in gender representation. You look at the circumstances that the province is trying to manage, (including) the issues of stability and various dynamics.”

Duarte admitted the disparities in gender representation across the provinces worried the ANC.

Of the eight ANC premiers, only one - the Northern Cape’s Lucas - is a woman. This has cast doubt on the ruling party’s commitment to gender equity.

“Each province gave us a man, and that is a problem to us. Because of what provinces gave us, it was a very difficult and complex process. That is why we had a one-on-one (discussion) with the PECs,” she said.

The ANC will hold a national general council next year to resolve the disparity in women’s representation.

“We have capable women in this country, we don’t need grooming. Women can lead as capably - and often more capably - than men,” Duarte said.

She added that the ANC would strive for a 60 percent representation of women in all the provinces.

She issued a stern warning to the premiers-elect, following the ANC’s mediocre showing in the elections.

“In terms of governance, the ANC is very clear that our monitoring and evaluation of public officials is going to be very tough.”

Duarte added that Mokonyane and axed North West premier Thandi Modise would not be lost to the ANC.

“Comrade Nomvula and Thandi Modise are very capable. I can assure that both of these comrades will find a place in a few days. Strength and capability is not lacking in these women.”

Modise and the Eastern Cape’s Noxolo Kiviet were replaced as premier by Supra Mahumapelo and Phumulo Masualle respectively.

Those retained are David Mabuza in Mpumalanga, Stan Mathabatha in Limpopo, Senzo Mchunu in KwaZulu-Natal, Ace Magashule in Free State and Sylvia Lucas in the Northern Cape.

lebogang.seale@inl.co.za and baldwin.ndaba@inl.co.za

The Star


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