Squabbles in the ANC in Mpumalanga played themselves out in the open last week when premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane and her MECs “snubbed” an official government event addressed by the province’s former premier David Mabuza.
Mabuza, who is now ANC and the country’s deputy president, was visibly upset that Mtsweni-Tsipane and her executive were not present at the event. The event, “Digital Skills Outreach Programme”, was held in the Nkomazi local municipality’s area of Mangweni.
The programme saw Mabuza and Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams donate 60 laptops with internet connections to two schools in the area and awarding certificates to scores of students who completed a cellphone repair course.
Although a media statement had indicated that Mabuza and Ndabeni-Abrahams would be accompanied by the premier, her MECs and mayors of the two municipalities, none of them showed up, leaving the once-powerful former premier fuming.
Only Ndabeni-Abrahams and Mabuza came to the event to address pupils, teachers and a few ANC comrades.
“I didn’t see any MEC. They decided not to come. Do we still have MECs in the province? Please tell them that we miss them,” Mabuza said while giving his address.
In February this year, Mtsweni-Tsipane “purged” MECs seen to be Mabuza’s loyalists. The premier sacked Gabisile Tshabalala (community safety, security and liaison), Norah Mahlangu (human settlements), Petrus Ngomane (provincial treasury, economic development and tourism) and Gillion Mashego (public works, roads and transport).
The four former MECs are considered to be close to Mabuza, who has had a political fallout with Mtsweni-Tsipane. It appears the MEC of education, Bonakele Majuba, was the one who was really anticipated at the event as his department was receiving the donations. But Majuba’s spokesperson, Jasper Zwane, said he was attending a funeral in Northern Cape and that was the reason his department was not seen at the event.
The snub comes as tensions among provincial leaders brew ahead of the much-awaited Mpumalanga’s 13th ANC elective congress that is set to elect Mabuza’s successor in the province. The premier’s spokeswoman, Sibongile Mkani-Mpolweni, said the premier was working from home but was able to send director-general Peter Nyoni as head of administration to represent the government at the event.
“I don’t know why the deputy president asked why MECs didn’t come because the head of administration was at the event to represent the government. Remember, this was not a provincial event and cannot always happen like that,” Mkani-Mpolweni said.
Mtsweni-Tsipane and her MECs will contest for positions on an anti-Mabuza slate in next month’s conference. The province, however, has been struggling to hold the conference since Mabuza was elected deputy president at the ANC’s 54th congress in December 2017.
Branch general meetings have been halted in parts of Mpumalanga following violence that claimed five lives. The national executive committee (NEC) has since condemned the matter, saying no one should hold the ANC branch meetings “to ransom”.
Over the weekend, the NEC task team visited the Gert Sibande region as tensions among warring factions boiled over and helped the region conduct peaceful branch general meetings. Five candidates are contesting the position of ANC provincial chairperson – four of whom contest on anti-Mabuza tickets, and two among the anti-Mabuza four are seen as frontrunners.
The frontrunners are acting provincial chairperson Mandla Ndlovu and Mtsweni-Tsipane, with Ndlovu seen as aligned to suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule and Mtshweni-Tsipane aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa. Other candidates are former provincial deputy chairperson David Dube, Deputy Tourism Minister Fish Mahlalela and Mabuza’s ally, Nkangala district municipal speaker Lucky Ndinisa.