Durban - As speculation grows over the future of KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and his possible resignation, insiders in the provincial ANC say such a move will pave the way for a provincial cabinet reshuffle.
This as intense consultation is taking place before an announcement can be made.
The Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) of the party is expected to meet on Thursday for the first time since the provincial elective conference where Siboniso Duma was elected chairperson.
While it is not clear if discussions will centre on the issue of a reshuffle, sources say that while Zikalala has not been pushed out of office, he was expected to resign on a matter of principle as there are concerns over two centres of power.
Provincial leaders also do not want a repeat of the 2016 change of power when then Premier Senzo Mchunu resigned after being asked to do so.
While a number of names have been touted as possible interim Premier, including MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Peggy Nkonyeni and MEC for Finance Nomusa Dube-Ncube, it appears that Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane is the frontrunner.
Sources said the “Taliban” grouping, whose influence helped shift last month’s elective conference towards Duma and the new provincial leadership, prefer Simelane who was elected the deputy provincial chairperson of the ANC at the recent conference.
This would then pave the way for provincial treasurer Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba to become Health MEC. Both Nkonyeni and Dube-Ncube are expected to retain provincial cabinet positions.
Duma is being touted to head up the Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Edtea) portfolio or the Department of Transport.
It has been suggested that Edtea MEC Ravi Pillay would then head up the Department of Sport and Recreation.
Provincial ANC spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela would only confirm that the PEC is scheduled to meet on Thursday.
Provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo said that a cabinet reshuffle was not part of the agenda.
Mondli Mkhize, spokesperson for the eThekwini regional executive committee, said the PEC would make announcements on a provincial cabinet reshuffle.
However, he said that whatever decisions were made, it was critical that there was stability in government and service delivery was not compromised.
Political analyst Dr Fikile Vilakazi, a lecturer in public policy and political science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), said it made sense that the names of Nkonyeni, Dube-Ncube and Simelane were being touted for interim premier as there was a hunger for female-led government.
“Dube-Ncube certainly has the necessary skills for leadership. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration and is currently pursuing a PhD at UKZN,” Vilakazi said.
Vilakazi said it was a strategic move for Duma to head up a portfolio before taking the helm as premier of the province.
“If it is the Transport Department then that is a troubled portfolio that needs to be sorted out … especially roads and infrastructure. This portfolio is crucial to boosting the economy in KZN.
“If he can show that he can handle the portfolio well, then this will be considered a show of strength ahead of the party’s December elective conference.”
Academic and political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu said he did not expect major changes to the provincial cabinet but the party’s Constitution allowed for the PEC to make such changes.