South Africa's North West Premier to Temporarily Vacate Post

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(Bloomberg) -- Supra Mahumapelo, the embattled premier of South Africa’s North West province, will temporarily vacate his post following a spate of violent protests against his leadership.

The ruling African National Congress will appoint an acting premier during Mahumapelo’s leave of absence, Susan Dantjie, the party’s acting provincial secretary, said in comments broadcast by Johannesburg-based television station eNCA.

Mahumapelo opposed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to win control of the ANC at an elective conference in December. His sidelining will 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. Yet it’s unlikely the move will end infighting within the ruling party.

“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.”

Mounting Disgruntlement

While Mahumapelo told the state broadcaster on Tuesday he’d agreed to go, he later backtracked at a meeting of the ANC’s executive committee in the North West, according to two 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.

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).

Irregular spending in the province surged by 600 percent over three years, according to Treasury Director General Dondo Mogajane.

Calls to Mahumapelo’s mobile phone didn’t connect.

It remains unclear whether Mahumapelo will retain his position as head of the ANC in the North West if he permanently 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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