Makhura's war on graft stirs up political challengers

Gauteng premier may have a fight on his hands for ANC provincial seat

03 June 2018 - 00:00 By SIBONGAKONKE SHOBA and APHIWE DEKLERK

Gauteng premier David Makhura is facing a revolt that may see him challenged for the position of ANC provincial chairman at the party's elective conference.
The Sunday Times can reveal that former Tshwane mayor Kgosientso "Sputla" Ramokgopa was approached this week to stand against Makhura by those who are disgruntled with the premier's leadership style.
Makhura was appointed acting provincial chairman after Paul Mashatile was elected treasurer-general at the ANC national conference in December. His detractors accuse him of abusing state resources to block his political opponents from being elected at the conference.
This comes after Makhura announced this week he had referred allegations of "irregularities and maladministration" in the department of agriculture - headed by Lebogang Maile - to the Special Investigating Unit.
Branch meetings
Maile is eyeing the deputy chairman post. But Makhura is said to prefer former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau. Also in the running is education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Initially Makhura was expected to be elected unopposed, but now Maile's supporters are pushing for Ramokgopa to take him on. Ramokgopa, who is ANC chairman in Tshwane, said he had not been formally approached to stand against Makhura, but had heard about this idea from "comrades"."I haven't had any approach by any branch or comrades. I have only received calls from comrades saying they are hearing [that I may stand]. But I told them I have not been approached."
He said he had not made up his mind whether to make himself available for the position, but would support a process that ensured "minimum disruption of unity".
Makhura told the Sunday Times he would not be deterred from acting against wrongdoing because of a looming ANC conference.
"Anyone hiding behind failure or wrongdoing and thinking they can say 'No, it's politics' - those days are over. We are in a different period now where no one can hide behind these things."
Makhura said the SIU was investigating all departments in Gauteng and rejected claims that he was targeting Maile.
He declined to discuss the upcoming conference, but said it was not true that he had a preferred deputy. "The issue of who is going to lead is going to be addressed by ANC members ... I have confidence in [them]."
ANC Gauteng secretary, Hope Papo, defended Makhura saying he was implementing the party's resolutions which call for public office bearers to deal decisively with corruption and maladministration.
"The ANC Gauteng province dismisses with utter contempt the baseless, false and malicious allegations levelled against ... comrade David Makhura that he is abusing state resources to target his so-called opponents," said Papo. He said Makhura had at all times kept the rest of the provincial leadership informed about steps he was to take to clean up the province.Lobbyists said many branches would raise Ramokgopa's name when branch general meetings sat this weekend.
Should Ramokgopa feature on the same slate as Maile, it would signal a change of political dynamics in the province.
This will likely divide the party in a province where it lost significant support in the 2016 local government elections - resulting in the opposition taking control of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
Maile and Makhura have over the years been part of Mashatile's inner circle. But insiders say the relationship went sour as soon as Makhura occupied the premier's office.
He appointed an anti-corruption council, established an integrity unit in his office, introduced a "transparent tender system" and invited the SIU to scrutinise more than 300 investigation reports.
Three-wheelers
This, according to insiders, irked some of his comrades. They say it was the move by Makhura to announce an investigation into the R26-million pre-payment by Maile's department of agriculture to Enviro Mobi for the supply of motorised three-wheelers that broke the camel's back.
The Mail&Guardian reported that Enviro Mobi is linked to ANC spokesman Pule Mabe - and had failed to deliver the vehicles.
"There is a general grievance that the comrade [Makhura] has a blank cheque to do as he pleases without consulting structures. There is a feeling that there is an assault against comrades in the executive, including Lebogang," said an insider.
Makhura said he was uncompromising when it came to corruption.
"People must not think they can try and win sympathy by creating stories. We in government must intervene decisively when there are problems."
Maile declined to comment on who he preferred for the chairmanship.
"I don't want people to use my name to divide the ANC. Comrades must resist attacking each other in the media."

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