Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma faces the first big hurdle of his post-election victory on Monday when the ANC sits to discuss who to appoint as premiers in the eight provinces where it governs.
Insiders say Zuma is set to retain Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane despite the ANC provincial leadership presenting him with a three-name list that includes two women and the party’s longest-serving Gauteng secretary, David Makhura, as the internal battle for the control of the country’s economic hub enters a fresh chapter.
The challenge, insiders say, is whether Zuma goes with Mokonyane for continuity’s sake and to show the faction led by chairman Paul Mashatile that he does not yield to their whims, or chooses another name from the three on the Gauteng leadership’s wish list, confirmed on Friday.
Tomorrow the ANC national working committee (NWC) will meet, followed by a special national executive committee (NEC) meeting to discuss the appointment of premiers.
Other crucial issues will be an assessment of the party election campaign and performance in the elections, and the deployment and slashing of members of Parliament.
It is understood security cluster ministers are expected to brief the NEC on their decision to take Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report under review.
Zuma is faced with the dilemma of having to retain Mokonyane and snubbing the provincial leadership’s preferred candidates, Makhura, provincial executive committee (PEC) member and Education MEC Barbara Creecy, and PEC member and Housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe.
The Sunday Independent understands some members of the PEC have almost resigned themselves to the reality that Mokonyane might return to the position despite the submission of three preferred names for the position by the PEC this week.
Mekgwe made a dramatic late entry into the race after the withdrawal of PEC member and Gauteng Finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe, who asked to be removed at a special PEC meeting in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Though Mokonyane is not among the three names, party insiders claim there is a strong likelihood she will be named premier, snubbing the Gauteng leadership’s preferred choices.
The NEC will on Monday meet for the first time since last week’s general elections when the party secured an overwhelming victory but failed to retain its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
It also fared dismally in Gauteng where it slumped by 10 percentage points and almost lost its majority by securing only 53.5 percent in the hotly contested provincial poll.
Mokonyane declined nomination as an MP to the National Assembly, sparking speculation that she was prepared to seek a second term as premier despite appearing at a low number – 11th – on the ANC list for the provincial legislature.
Her appointment could spark a continuation of the “two centres of power” situation in Gauteng, where the ANC chairman is not the premier, unlike in most provinces such as Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga.
The party also needs to strike a gender balance to comply with its 50/50 gender policy, though this is not compulsory as premiers are not positions in ANC structures.
Political analyst Susan Booysen said the appointment of premiers created a tricky and complex situation for Zuma as it was not only about governance. Loyalty and support galvanised for the president also had to be rewarded.
She said the “dual centres of power” was inevitable in many provinces as all ANC provincial structures were led by men and the president had to take gender into account.
“There are provinces like the Free State and North West where it seems inevitable that Supra (Mahumapelo) and (Ace) Magashule are most likely to be appointed, but it is very open in many of the provinces.
“Gauteng is not in Zuma’s good books, but Mokonyane is in the president’s good books, and that is how the president operates, so it will be quite tricky for him. Some people have worked hard for the president and they have to be rewarded,” she said.
Zuma appointed four female premiers in the North West, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng when he assumed office in 2009.
The SACP in Gauteng has called for the elimination of the “two centres of power”, implying it was a contributory factor to the dismal performance of the ANC in the province.
“The PEC reaffirmed its long-held view that the qualitative renewal should urgently attend to the tendency towards two centres of power in the province, creating competing and parallel political processes between the state and the ANC-led alliance.
Gauteng leaders are also expected to be questioned over the party’s performance in the polls, which has been attributed, among others, to the controversial implementation of e-tolls and the controversy surrounding the R246 million security upgrades at Zuma’s Nkandla home.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe this week dismissed these suggestions, saying the e-tolls matter was a “misplaced debate”, but raised concerns over the party’s performance in the Tshwane and Joburg metros.
One Gauteng PEC member this week alluded to Mokonyane’s likely appointment as being “dangerous” for the party’s electoral prospects in 2016, saying “it would mean we continue as if business is as usual when the party is close to losing the province”.
The selection of the premier is far less contentious in some provinces, like the North West, Free State and Limpopo, where provincial chairmen Supra Mahumapelo, Ace Magashule and Stan Mathabatha are respectively expected to be announced as premiers.
ANC spokesman Keith Khoza confirmed that there will be an NWC meeting on Monday morning, which will be followed by a special NEC meeting. He could however not say whether premiers were going to be selected at the meeting, saying he could not comment on the agenda until the secretary-general communicated it to the media.
“Only the secretary-general will know if all the provinces have submitted the names of premier candidates as he handles that process directly,” said Khoza.
Commenting on whether 50/50 gender parity policies will be followed in selecting premiers, Khoza said premiers were not a structure and only structures adhered to the 50/50 gender parity policy.
“However, the ANC always endeavours that the composition takes into account the need for gender presence,” Khoza said.