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