OPINION - AT ONE stage, they were known as the premier league – David Mabuza headed up the government in Mpumalanga, Ace Magashule in the Free State and Supra Mahumapelo in North West Province.
In the run up to the ANC’s 54th elective conference, they threw their support behind Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for president of the ruling party.
However, at the last moment, Mabuza turned his back on the premier league and supported Cyril Ramaphosa. While some regarded him as a traitor, he was rewarded with the deputy presidency of the ANC and subsequently the country.
Since December 2017, when the results of the ANC election were announced, the influence the premier league commanded has slowly waned. And in the last few weeks its once commanding voice has been all but silenced.
Historically, the ANC deputy president becomes president but Mabuza may be the first who breaks that tradition. Initially, a bout of ill health kept him away from work and the public eye. More recently, Mabuza has tried to build his public profile but he remains unpopular within the ANC and the general public.
Two recent scandals also threaten his future. The first is allegations that he benefited from money that should have gone to the ANC. The second is that a foundation registered in his name received a questionable R30 million donation.
While both allegations of wrongdoing have been denied, the DA, the main opposition party in Parliament, has asked that Mabuza step aside while the matters are being investigated.
Meanwhile, Magashule, another member of the premier league, has been suspended from the ruling party.
Magashule was charged with corruption and according to ANC rules, those facing serious criminal charges should “step aside”. Magashule was given 30 days to do so and then suspended.
He has tried to fight his suspension but it is clear he lacks the support to overturn the decision.
Also out in the cold is Mahumapelo who was suspended from the ANC for a period of five years. The party’s interim provincial committee suspended him following allegations of misconduct although he has said he would appeal the decision.
The demise of the premier league is linked to the fall of former president Jacob Zuma. While it has divided the party, it has resulted in a process of renewal. For the first time since Thabo Mbeki was ousted in 2008, the ANC has a shot at being the party that once endeared itself to the people. The opposition should be worried.