26/04/2018 11:09 SAST | Updated 26/04/2018 11:31 SAST

ANC National Working Committee Back In Violent North West

Mahumapelo is facing the strongest revolt ever against an ANC leader, with the province gripped by violent protests by residents calling for his removal.

Children play around a vandalised ATM in North West on April 20, 2018, as protests continued for a second day in provincial capital Mahikeng. Police fired rubber bullets at protesters after President Cyril Ramaphosa cut short a foreign trip to deal with violent riots over alleged government corruption and poor public services. Shops were looted, roads were blocked and vehicles set alight. At least 23 people were arrested, and one man was reported to have died.

Members of the ANC's national working committee (NWC) are expected to once again descend on troubled, violent North West.

On Thursday, the NWC is expected to face the ire of party members and residents losing patience with its indecision regarding premier Supra Mahumapelo's fate.

Mahumapelo is facing the strongest revolt ever against an ANC leader, with the province gripped by violent protests by residents calling for his removal.

The rioting has seen shops shut down in several towns across the province, with schooling and health services in some parts grinding to a halt.

Pressure for Mahumapelo to go has now shifted to President Cyril Ramaphosa. A group calling itself the "Revolutionary Council" gave Ramaphosa a Wednesday deadline to fire Mahumapelo, or face an indefinite shutdown of the province.

Ramaphosa visited the province a week ago after cutting short his visit to London, when protests were limited to the capital, Mahikeng. They have since spread.

Pamphlets and posters were being distributed on Wednesday, rallying members for what they call: "The Final Push! Total NW province shutdown until #Supramustfall."

However, senior ANC members have said a decision about Mahumapelo could only be taken by the national executive committee (NEC).

Two NEC members said an urgent committee meeting can only be scheduled after the NWC, which deals with the day-to-day running of the party, holds its own meeting next week.

'Some branches are being sidelined'

"The NWC is meeting next Wednesday in Cape Town. We are now simply visiting the regions," an NWC member told News24.

"It's amazing how people suddenly don't know how the ANC takes decisions. The president, and also [the] NWC, has no powers to appoint or fire a premier."

Mahumapelo has divided provincial and national leaders, with some accusing the party's secretary-general, Ace Magashule, of deploying those sympathetic to Mahumapelo in North West.

The NWC member specifically claimed that Magashule deployed "NWC members seen to be critical of Mahumapelo" to meet with branches in another province, Free State, in which the ANC is experiencing trouble.

The list comprising NWC members and NEC deployees sent to North West includes Bathabile Dlamini, Meokgo Matuba, Snuki Zikalala, Tony Yengeni, Obed Bapela, Senzo Mchunu, Barbara Creecy, Violet Siwela, Derek Hanekom, Sylvia Lucas, Nkenke Kekana, Malusi Gigaba and Magashule.

Former leaders in North West, including Collen Maine and Thandi Modise, are among those deployed to Free State.

The NWC members going to Free State will assess whether to go to a provincial elective conference ahead of the 2019 elections.

"Some of us as NWC members were not told of [the] visit to North West — we just hear there is a meeting," the News24 source said.

"Going to KZN, we were told in time about the visit. But with North West, even some branches are being sidelined, as some were not being told about the meetings on Thursday," the member, who is also part of the NEC, added.

ANC members in North West have also complained that they were not told where and when the meetings were happening, while others have said they received the details late, and venues for the meetings were far-flung and inaccessible.

In a message seen by News24, one local ANC member complains that those supporting Mahumapelo are being ferried to the venues.

'We want to hear it's the end of Mahumapelo'

"An ample [sic] of parallel Branch Executive Committees which are pro North West Provincial Executive Committee have been communicated with and ferried to the venue, a venue choice [that] reflects nothing but gross gatekeeping, factionalism and self-serving agenda by the embattled PEC," the message read.

PEC member Mmoloki Cwaile, who is openly calling for Mahumapelo to go, confirmed that there was no proper communication issued on the meetings. He warned that the NWC must not consult executives of what he called "bogus branches", and urged the party to meet not only with ANC members, but to extend the engagement to ordinary residents — saying if it didn't, it risked becoming irrelevant ahead of the all-important 2019 elections.

"The ANC will just be doing an exercise of listening... to itself if it leaves out the people. The ANC, over and above itself, is leading society, and it must show it has understood the messages from the masses on the ground," Cwaile said.

"It will lose relevance on account of ignoring the view of that person the ANC is supposed to be representing. It can't represent itself and say it is the view of the ANC not to remove the premier — it would be wrong," he said.

The calls for Mahumapelo to go are supported by the alliance partners, the South African National Civics Organisation [Sanco] and the South African Communist Party [SACP].

"There is no need to caucus over this issue. We know what the issues are, and when the NWC comes we just want to hear of a decision. We want to hear that it's the end of Mahumapelo," Sanco's Pakete Seaketso said.

Those supporting the embattled premier have argued that the campaign is a "well thought-out programme" targeting certain provinces and senior ANC leaders who are viewed as being "too powerful", and in favour of "radical economic transformation".

They have argued that instead of taking to the streets, ANC members should contest Mahumapelo at a provincial congress next year.