African Times - - PERSPECTIVES -

Just when the ANC had got­ten rid of its for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, the North West prov­ince cap­i­tal city Mahikeng ex­pe­ri­enced the worst may­hem since the over­throw of for­mer Bo­phuthatswana home­land leader, Lucas Manyane Man­gope. This time the fire that burnt the city was in de­mand for the re­call of premier and party pro­vin­cial chair­per­son, Supra Mahumapelo.

Things got so vi­o­lent that Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa had to cut his at­ten­dance of the Com­mon­wealth Head of Govern­ment meet­ing in Lon­don short to re­turn to South Africa to ex­tin­guish the fires con­sum­ing Mahikeng and threat­en­ing the en­tire prov­ince of North West.

Be­fore Ramaphosa’s sud­den re­turn to the coun­try ev­ery­thing was threat­ened by fire and loot­ers who were on ram­page. Even sa­cred in­sti­tu­tions such as Mma­bana Arts and Cul­ture cen­tre didn’t es­cape the wrath of the peo­ple of Mahikeng. They burnt it down like they do even to li­braries dur­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery protests.

Since then Ramaphosa has been to the North West on Fri­day. He re­turned to of­fice later in the af­ter­noon with Mahumapelo still in power, much to the anger of the anti-premier group led by the SACP in the prov­ince.

Ac­cord­ing to the Pres­i­dent, a de­ci­sive ac­tion will pre­ceded by proper pro­cesses and con­sul­ta­tion. A de­ci­sive ac­tion can only be the re­call of Mahumapelo and his re­de­ploy­ment else­where.

Re­call­ing Mahumapelo will how­ever not be an easy pas­sage. He is well es­tab­lished in the ANC struc­tures of the North West. So en­trenched is he in the pol­i­tics of the prov­ince, that they call him Black Je­sus. From when he was pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary, he had a firm grip on the party and the pro­vin­cial govern­ment. That’s how he came to be premier of the prov­ince.

In the build up to the re­cent ANC na­tional con­fer­ence he was listed with a lobby group called Premier League, made of the pre­miers of Mpumalanga, Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal. They were cred­ited with the as­cen­sion of the now turned against Mahumapelo Collen Maine, to be ANC Youth League pres­i­dent. They also, though splin­ter­ing at the last hur­dle, backed Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s failed bid for ANC pres­i­dent.

It is Mahumapelo’s po­lit­i­cal clout that poses a su­per headache for the ANC and paral­ysed it into in­ac­tion. The ANC ap­pears help­less at the face of a cloud hang­ing over its de­ployee and ac­com­pa­nied by the ugli­est civil un­rest ever.

Peo­ple in Mahikeng and ANC al­lies have dared the party to take the side of the peo­ple above that of its pow­er­ful de­ployee. Af­ter a closed meet­ing on Fri­day. The party ap­pears to have erred on the side of cau­tion and thus re­tain­ing Mahumapelo. For how long, de­pends on who be­tween who blinks first be­tween the premier and the party.

Some ob­servers al­lege that if Ramaphosa had been de­ci­sive and ac­ceded to will of the peo­ple, there would have been a blood bath and more de­struc­tion in North West. They ar­gue that the best bet for the pres­i­dent is to win the ANC na­tional com­mit­tee over to the re­call op­tion. It re­mains to be seen whether the party will muster courage to deal with the man they call Black Je­sus.

In re­cent times the ANC has been re­luc­tant to deal with its re­cal­ci­trant mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly at lead­er­ship level. The party’s in­ac­tion has cre­ated a cul­ture of act­ing with im­punity among its cadres at all lev­els. This has been the case even with an In­tegrity Com­mit­tee in place.

The re­call of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was a painfully drawn out affair. Its trauma con­tin­ues to be felt to­day. It is bound to reach a tip­ping point when Zuma’s case proper starts.

For now the ANC is sad­dled with its sec­ond su­per headache, Mahumapelo. What the party has suc­ceeded to do, has been to de­lay the in­evitable re­call of its premier de­ployee. Un­til both the party and the de­ployee come to a set­tle­ment, the mat­ter will re­mains a fes­ter­ing sore.

What will re­main a gi­ant headache for the ANC is its af­flic­tion by the big-men syn­drome and the cult of per­son­al­ity. Th­ese are men, and yes they are men, whose shad­ows loom large over the or­gan­i­sa­tion. They al­ways get their way.

When big men have over­stayed in power, it be­comes a mam­moth of a task to leave of­fice and its perks. The only way out for them is to be pushed out, lead­ing ten­sions and in­sta­bil­ity be­yond their forced de­par­ture.

Forced de­par­tures started at Polok­wane with Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki. The at­tempt on Zuma col­lapsed in Man­gaung. Nas­rec in De­cem­ber 2018 be­came an­other bat­tle for party power and in­flu­ence. Five years down the line it will the power plays in a dif­fer­ent prov­ince.

The Mahumapelo headache is not an in­di­vid­ual prob­lem, if it was an in­di­vid­ual prob­lem it would dis­ap­pear with his de­par­ture. He will go, as he will go sooner rather than later, but the prob­lem will re­main. His pres­ence in the pol­i­tics of North West will con­tinue to re­ver­ber­ate long af­ter he would have va­cated of­fice.

That’s how deep the cult of per­son­al­ity and fac­tion­al­ism run in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Th­ese twin prob­lems are like a can­cer that’s eat­ing away the body piece by piece. Left un­treated, there will be lit­tle or­gan­i­sa­tion left.

For the ANC to see it­self through the daunt­ing 2019 elec­tions, it needs to tighten its struc­tures and sys­tems. For now the sys­tems and struc­tures are weak, and lend them­selves to ma­nip­u­la­tion by op­por­tunists who see the party as for feed­ing trough for self­ag­gran­dis­e­ment. The vast ma­jor­ity of South Africans see their eco­nomic sal­va­tion only in the ANC. It dare not fail­ure them and forego its lib­er­a­tion cap­i­tal in the process. For now there is just too many skele­tons rat­tling in the cab­i­net to get the coun­try and the world in­vestor com­mu­nity to be very wor­ried.

The ANC and the coun­try have gone through a lot of dam­age in the past few years since Polok­wane in 2007. Point­ing fin­gers on why the coun­try is here to­day does no one a favour. There are no an­gels in this sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing Mbeki who may want to say I warned you and you didn’t lis­ten and ran af­ter the dancer.

For the ANC, des­tiny is rid­ding it­self of the Mahumapelo su­per headache and keep­ing an eye on de­vel­op­ments in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The na­tion is watch­ing with an eye on 2019.

It re­mains to be seen whether the Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma In­ter-Min­is­te­rial Com­mit­tee on North West will find the cure for the ANC Mahumapelo headache. The ANC na­tional com­mit­tee meet­ing in May has to fi­nalise this mat­ter. In the mean­time vul­tures are cir­cling over­head, wait­ing for the dead man-walk­ing Mahumapelo to fall for them to snatch the crown.

-Photo Den­vor de Wee/ Visual Buzz SA

The writer says North West Premier and pro­vin­cial chair­per­son, Supra Mahumapelo, is the rul­ing party’s headache

Mole­batsi Masedi is a Polok­wane, Lim­popo based pro­po­nent of rad­i­cal so­cio-eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. Tweeter: @ Mole­batsi Masedi

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