Ramaphosa Foe Is Said to Cling on as S. Africa Province Head

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(Bloomberg) -- Supra Mahumapelo is considering rescinding his decision to quit as premier of South Africa’s North West province after coming under pressure from his allies within the ruling African National Congress to stay on, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Mahumapelo opposed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to win control of the ruling ANC at an elective conference in December. His sidelining would help Ramaphosa assert his control over the party, which remains deeply divided between his supporters and those of former President Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign in February.

While Mahumapelo told the state broadcaster on Tuesday he’d agreed to go, he backtracked at a meeting of the ANC’s executive committee in the North West, according to the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The committee disagreed with a proposal by the ANC’s national leadership to appoint businessman Zakes Tolo as a premier, saying they preferred clergyman OJ Tselapedi, the people said.

“The ongoing internal battle between the supporters of Ramaphosa and those of Zuma will continue,” Aubrey Matshiqi, an independent political analyst, said by phone Wednesday. “Ramaphosa’s challenge is to assert his authority in the party and one of the ways to do that is by neutralizing those who were key players under Zuma.”

Violent Protests

The North West province has been rocked by a series of violent protests over recent weeks by community members demanding Mahumapelo’s resignation and better access to government services.

The ANC will lose votes in next year’s national elections if it doesn’t get rid of Mahumapelo, Matshiqi said.

“Eventually he’ll have to go,” he said. “He is saying he will step down once the provincial executive committee tells him to do so.”

While Mahumapelo remains an important pillar of the Zuma guard, his power is waning and the ANC’s national leadership will be able to force him from office, according to Susan Booysen, a political science professor at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Governance.

Graft Scandal

“He has in essence fallen already,” Booysen said by phone.

Disgruntlement with Mahumapelo’s leadership has been mounting over his handling of a graft scandal and the sidelining of his ANC rivals in the North West. South Africa’s special police unit known as the Hawks said it raided Mahumapelo’s offices last month in connection with alleged maladministration, fraud and corruption amounting to about 160 million rand ($13 million).

Calls to Mahumapelo’s mobile phone never connected.

It remains unclear whether Mahumapelo will retain his position as head of the ANC in the North West if he relinquishes the post of premier, said Theo Venter, a political analyst at North-West University in Potchefstroom, west of Johannesburg.

“Mahumapelo is at his most dangerous in the ANC party structures, not as head of the provincial government,” Venter said by phone.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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