Johannesburg - Gauteng Premier David Makhura is set to defy alleged attempts to drive a wedge between him and provincial chairman Paul Mashatile by not standing against him for the leadership of the party in the province.
Makhura’s eleventh-hour appointment as Gauteng premier has been described as a ploy by the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to pit him against Mashatile, and thereby divide a province which has been in defiance of the national leadership since it was elected in Mangaung in 2012.
Sources close to the leadership claimed this week Makhura was likely to be encouraged to run for the chairmanship of the province, using the Gauteng leadership’s own long-standing argument of “two centres” of power where the chairman is also the premier.
This situation created tensions between current chairman Mashatile and then premier Nomvula Mokonyane.
However, The Sunday Independent understands Makhura is set to stand as deputy chairman of the province, avoiding a leadership tussle that could split Gauteng by pitting its two most powerful leaders against each other.
The mandate of the Gauteng leadership expired this week and the party is set to go to a provincial conference before the end of the year, where the new leadership is to be elected.
Mashatile is expected to contest to retain his position to avoid going into political oblivion, while Makhura’s appointment as premier has also created a vacancy for his full-time position as the provincial secretary.
Sources close to the Gauteng leadership have indicated that the option to have Makhura as the deputy chairman was initially seen as problematic as he would no longer be an ex-officio member of the ANC national executive committee (NEC).
However, there is also a counter-argument that his presence in the provincial leadership is more crucial than in the NEC.
This would make Makhura and Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas the only premiers in ANC-controlled provinces who do not sit on the ANC NEC.
Gauteng did not support Zuma’s candidacy at the party’s elective conference in Mangaung in 2012 after Mashatile was snubbed by Zuma for the position of Gauteng premier in 2009.
He has also failed to return to Zuma’s cabinet announced last week.
“It will be interesting to see how it plays out because that conference has the potential to split Makhura and Mashatile, the stakes are simply too high for both of them.
“Paul cannot afford to lose the chairmanship of the province, it will be detrimental for him ahead of the 2017 national conference. He will go there without a base,” said one provincial leader who preferred to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
The position of provincial secretary might also prove to be a contentious one.
Deputy provincial secretary Boyce Maneli is currently acting in that position and is expected to stand for the position during the conference.
Maneli was elected unopposed as deputy provincial secretary last year to replace Humphrey Mmemezi, who was elected to the NEC in 2012.
But another Gauteng leader, who preferred not to be named, said a leadership contest between Makhura and Mashatile for the chairmanship of the province “is not going to happen”.
“That would be great for those who want to see the province split in half, but it is not going to happen. There will not be a leadership contest that some are anticipating.”
Makhura’s first two years in office will be crucial as the provincial government’s performance will undoubtedly influence the party’s electoral prospects in the 2016 local government elections.
The ANC performed badly in the province in the recent elections, managing 53.6 percent, well down on 64 percent in 2009.
According to Gauteng ANC spokesman Nkenke Kekana, these results were to be analysed at the PEC lekgotla being held this weekend.
“We are analysing those results VD (voting district) by VD, to see what the voting patterns were, what the turnout was, and what the issues in those voting districts are,” said Kekana.
Kekana refused to comment on the issues surrounding the provincial conference, saying a date had not been confirmed and that the party was focused on the lekgotla and “work that has to be done”.
Meanwhile, some of Makhura’s appointments to the provincial executive are already causing a stir, with the appointment of his chief of staff Kay Sexwale coming under criticism from ANC loyalists this week.
ANC members in the province took to social media platforms to protest against Sexwale’s appointment due to her known criticism of Zuma, particularly on social media platforms and in various newspaper articles.
By appointing Sexwale, the Makhura administration is seen to be showing Zuma and his loyalists the middle finger, coming as it does soon after the premier’s highly-contested appointment and Mashatile’s axing from cabinet.
Sexwale is the niece of former human settlements minister and ANC bigwig Tokyo Sexwale and was a talk show host on Talk Radio 702. She refused to comment.
Finance MEC Barbara Creecy this week became the first MEC to crack the whip in her new department with the suspension of the chief financial officer, Stewart Lumka.
Lumka was suspended over allegations that he misled previous finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe and the provincial legislature over a R7 million contract for a biometric system for the department.
The premier’s spokeswoman, Nino Zama, said Makhura was in the process of evaluating the performance and capacity of staff in his office.
“Premier Makhura is still applying himself on the constituting of his office and has expressed his intention and once the appointments are made, he will announce the rest of the team,” said Zama. - The Sunday Independent