By Carrien du Plessis and Gaye Davis
In a surprise move, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has resigned a day before she was due to be sworn in again as an MP and less than a week after it was announced that she would be the new ANC caucus chairperson.
Madlala-Routledge, who was controversially sacked by former president Thabo Mbeki as deputy health minister in 2006 and made it to 14th place on the ANC's candidate list to the National Assembly, was until recently regarded as a rising star in the party.
Now she appears to have said "thanks, but no thanks" to the ANC after it decided to redeploy her as caucus chairperson.
It is understood that Madlala-Routledge had her sights set on becoming the new Speaker of Parliament. Her hopes were dashed when party bosses announced that national executive committee member Max Sisulu would take the job, with former Cape Town mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo as his deputy.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday that Madlala-Routledge "wanted to do something else outside of Parliament" and that she would resign as MP.
Mildred Oliphant - tipped to become deputy chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, where incumbent Mninwa Mahlangu will remain at the helm as chairperson - is to become caucus chairperson in her place.
Mantashe would not comment on Madlala-Routledge's future plans.
He hinted at the possibility that her resignation was linked to a disagreement over the parliamentary role to which she had been assigned.
"If she remained in Parliament, we wouldn't change her (from caucus chairwoman) because one of the things we don't do in the ANC when you get deployed (is) pick and choose.
"You are either in that space of deployment or you are out of that space of deployment. Her primary space of deployment is in Parliament - so she will be replaced, because she is leaving Parliament," he said.
He hinted that there were "a few of those" leaving Parliament, but he refused to give names.
Madlala-Routledge could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
She had come in at 33d place in elections for the ANC's new national executive committee at the Polokwane conference in 2007.
She was also elected to the SACP's central committee.
Sources within the party have told Independent Newspapers that Madlala-Routledge's contribution to the elections effort was negligible, which could have been a factor.
Earlier this year fresh allegations of unauthorised travel surfaced, with Madlala-Routledge accused of planning an unauthorised, R93 000 trip to Vietnam without proper authorisation from her boss, National Assembly Speaker Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.
The reports were interpreted as a smear campaign.
Her resignation as an MP - and the decision by a few other MPs to decline their seats - could make it possible for people such as Intelligence Minister Siyabonga Cwele, who is at the moment too low down on the ANC's candidate list, at No 131, to get a seat in Parliament.
The first 126 candidates on the ANC's national to national list were allocated seats in the National Assembly.
ANC leader and president in waiting Jacob Zuma must resign as an MP after he is elected president of the country, while former ANC MP Dennis Bloem is also a non-starter for ANC benches in Parliament after he joined Cope.
Bloem will now return to Parliament - but as a member of the National Council of Provinces.