North West: The compromise premier candidate is walking into a ‘political minefield’
The ANC alliance’s factions are ready to give experienced civil servant Tebogo Job Mokgoro, 70, a chance as premier of the strife-torn North West province.
Former North West director general Tebogo Job Mokgoro will be sworn in as the province’s premier on Friday, the ANC confirmed at Luthuli House on Thursday, avoiding a potential dissolution of the province’s legislature and early elections. Making the announcement, ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule cited Mokgoro’s experience and said the ANC national working committee (NWC) decided unanimously on his appointment, which the party hopes can unite divided factions in the province. “We needed somebody who could be welcomed by everybody and I think, in our wisdom, that’s why the NWC decision is unanimous because you want somebody who can actually engage everybody and ensure that there is unity and renewal during this period,” said Magashule. “Actually, we arrived at a decision that we hope everybody will accept and the alliance, the SACP, Cosatu, ANC Youth League, Women’s League, support the premier-elect,” continued the secretary general. The 70-year-old Mokgoro, who has vast experience in government and academia, was chosen by the national working committee on Wednesday after the party’s national executive committee (NEC) couldn’t choose between candidates earlier this week. Mokgoro attended the ANC press conference on Thursday but didn’t speak. ANC factions have been locked in a stalemate over appointing a new premier since last month’s resignation of former premier Supra Mahumapelo. The Constitution says a province’s legislature must be dissolved and elections called if the position of premier is vacant for 30 days, but Mokgoro’s election will narrowly avoid that deadline. The ANC, which enjoys a majority in North West, struggled to find a candidate who would appease different factions in the province after Mahumapelo was forced to step down following widespread protests and the national government’s decision to place the province under administration. The party’s provincial executive committee (PEC) offered three candidates to fill the role: Mokgoro, speaker and ANC North West acting secretary Susan Dantjie, and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa. Magashule said a range of candidates were discussed. Mokgoro was in the Mahumapelo-aligned PEC’s list but is seen as less factional than Dantjie and Molewa, who was premier between 2004 and 2009. The ANC and its alliance partners Cosatu and the SACP have seen tense divisions throughout recent years that came to an apex with calls for Mahumapelo’s removal. “I think he’s a compromise candidate. He’s acceptable to both lines,” said North-West University politics Professor AndréDuvenage. “I think under these specific circumstances he’s probably the best choice they could have made.” Wits School of Governance Professor Susan Booysen said, “He is probably as suitable as possible in the circumstances. The fact that he is there means he is probably suitable to all factions.” Given the “political minefield” and different demands that need to be balanced in the province, Booysen said it would be hard for anyone to do the job successfully, but Mokgoro had experience in the provincial government and might be prepared to meet its challenges. Mahumapelo, who still serves as chairperson of the ANC North West’s provincial executive committee, welcomed Mokgoro at Thursday’s press conference. “As the PEC we will be supporting unashamedly without any ambiguousness, we will relentlessly support the new premier,” he said. Health workers’ union Nehawu, a Cosatu affiliate, took a strong stance on Mahumapelo’s government. The union’s Provincial Deputy Secretary Toffies Moemi on Thursday took a cautious approach to Mokgoro's election. “Politics has changed and one cannot confirm if a person is a right candidate for a certain job until they are given a task to perform,” he said. “If Job works in line with the principle of ANC in terms of bringing stability in North West then we can score him some points for that,” Moemi continued. “However let’s give the man space to operate and put aside our factional tendencies, because if we bring our factional tendencies he won’t be able to perform to the best of his abilities.” The Revolutionary Council, a group of ANC supporters that opposed Mahumapelo and his executive committee, welcomed the announcement. “Nobody can question Job’s good reputation. He is a civil servant with a belief of clean governance. We hope and believe that he will continue with this and [serve with distinction] in servicing the North West province in the hopes of bringing stability to the province,” said the Revolutionary Council’s Thato wa Magogodi. COPE’s provincial secretary JuniorRammupudu Mooketsi was cautious. He said Mokgoro had an “impeccable background” but would struggle to turn the province around. “The rot in the ANC is too deep. Mokgoro is not a politician and he will be undermined due to the factions in ANC.” DA North West provincial leader Joe McGluwa said Mokgoro will have a difficult time in office as he was appointed to keep President Cyril Ramaphosa's faction happy. "It won't be an easy time for him," he said. "His first priority should be to get his hands on the forensic report that was compiled by the inter-ministerial task team that is still been kept a secret from us." Mokgoro, who has held various ANC leadership positions, worked on building the provincial administration in the transition into democracy, and served as North West director general in the mid-1990s. He then served as director general of the South African Management Development Institute, taught at Wits University’s Graduate School of Governance, led the National School of Government, and consulted for different state departments. After protests erupted calling for Mahumapelo’s removal, a national task team led by Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma investigated governance, service delivery and allegations of corruption in the province before Cabinet decided to put the whole province under administration. According to a 2013 profile, Mokgoro has been described as accountable honest and transparent. He blamed politicians for civil service failures. “When the fish is rotten, start checking the head – you will see that is where it started. So, similarly, a lot of times when things go wrong, check leadership,” he said. Booysen said Mokgoro’s experience as a bureaucratic politician will be useful as the province needs to work with the national government while it is under administration to address its crises. Duvenage said Mokgoro should first focus on stabilising the North West, which has been beset by political instability, and start rebuilding government structures that have collapsed. He pointed to the province’s health department, which is in crisis. Mokgoro, who is not a member of the North West legislature, will be sworn in by the province’s judge president and elected premier by the ANC on Friday. Mahumapelo said Mokgoro will only speak to the media after he is elected premier. The former premier said he looked forward to working closely with Mokgoro. Despite calls for it to be disbanded, ANC leaders have for now decided to keep the provincial structure with Mahumapelo as its head. DM