In the wake of former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo courting support from the so-called radical economic transformation faction of the ANC over the weekend during a church service, ANC national executive committee (NEC) member and Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula hit out at Mahumapelo on Twitter.
In a comment that immediately raised eyebrows, Mbalula alleged that “this one” (presumably Mahumapelo), had been part of forming the Congress of the People (Cope) after unhappy ANC members broke away from the governing party in 2008 following their unhappiness at Jacob Zuma ascending to the ANC presidency and later the South African presidency.
Mbalula was responding to a Twitter user who was scornful of Mahumapelo and his supporters and their supposed lack of support beyond the ANC.
Mahumapelo’s actions over the weekend caused much political speculation. On Sunday he used a church venue in Mathibestad, North West, to hold what appeared to be a rally where he shared his “vision” of “re-branding, re-positioning and renewal”.
Mahumapelo’s actions could see him accused of being aligned with the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) Forces faction of the ANC, which the ANC NEC in March said should not be allowable.
At one point Mahumapelo even sang the song made most famous by Zuma during his legal troubles in the 2000s, Umshini Wami (Hand me my machine gun).
Watch that video here (story text continues below it):
A smallanyana skeleton?
Mbalula’s Cope allegation about Mahumapelo is particularly surprising considering that Mahumapelo was considered to be close to Zuma during his terms in power. If true, it would deal a further blow to Mahumapelo’s political credibility as Mahumapelo formed part of what was once informally called the “Premier League” of the ANC, together with then Free State premier Ace Magashule and then Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza. Together, they represented a powerful grouping in the ANC at the time.
Magashule, now the ANC secretary-general, appears to have retained some loyalty to Mahumapelo, as the secretary-general attempted to quietly overrule Mahumapelo’s five-year suspension from the ANC after the ANC in North West made the suspension ruling against Mahumapelo last week.
The interim provincial committee (IPC) of the ANC in North West immediately came out to challenge Magashule, who had communicated his “decision” to Mahumapelo but not to them, despite the suspension having been their decision.
Committee coordinator Hlomani Chauke said the letter from Magashule informing Mahumapelo that he was not yet suspended was wrong in terms of both fact and ANC party policy.
Magashule claimed that because Mahumapelo had supposedly appealed his five-year suspension to the national disciplinary committee of appeals, he could still be seen as a member until that was resolved.
Mahumapelo and another ANC member, Bitsa Lenkopane, were suspended for allegedly telling fraud-accused JB Marks Mayor Kgotso Khumalo not to step aside due to the criminal charges he is facing. This amounted to a violation of the ANC code of conduct, according to the IPC.
Chauke later clarified that no appeal had been served on his committee or the provincial disciplinary committee. He also pointed out that any appeal would need to be lodged with the national disciplinary committee, not the national disciplinary committee of appeals.
“As far as the provincial structure is concerned, there is no appeal pending with national disciplinary committee of appeals and therefore the decision of the provincial disciplinary committee remains in force and effect,” wrote Chauke last week.
’’Secretary-General’s Office did not have an authority of the ANC NEC by stating that membership of the comrade SOR Mahumapelo and comrade Bitsa Lenkopane are intact as provided for in Rule 25.44 of the ANC Constitution.”
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa at the end of March announced that a majority of ANC NEC members had rejected the existence and aims of the RET grouping in the ANC and he barred all members from being involved with it.
Carl Niehaus, currently the MKMVA spokesperson, is closely associated with the RET grouping and was working from within Magashule’s office.
Last month, Ramaphosa said: “Furthermore, the NEC will not allow any member of the ANC staff to use the resources and premises of the ANC to hold meetings of the RET or any other faction.” This was a clear blow to Niehaus, who later defended the RET Forces and denied that it was working as a faction.
Niehaus was also present at Mahumapelo’s church meeting on Sunday, and joined in on the singing and dancing. Niehaus has been facing possible disciplinary action from the ANC himself for some time now.
Mbalula, minister of Twitter
Mbalula is no stranger to speaking his mind on Twitter and making revelations. In 2017, in the run-up to the ANC’s elective conference, he was scathing in his dismissal of Magashule, saying the long-running Free State chairperson was “a definite no no no” for election as secretary-general.
He alleged that Magashule would destroy what was left of the ANC and “inffect [sic] it”. Magashule went on to win election to the post despite Mbalula’s warnings. Magashule has subsequently been criminally charged but remains defiant and refuses to step aside from his post.