The posters were ready. So were the protesters. So were members of the North West legislature.
But they will all have to wait until a court has decided whether a motion of no confidence in embattled North West premier Supra Mahumapelo will be through secret ballot.
Supporters of Mahumapelo, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members and others who want him gone – including members of public service unions – were expected to demonstrate outside the provincial legislature, where the motion was set to be debated this morning.
That was until an early-morning text message to members of provincial legislature (MPLs) from speaker Susan Dantjie. The message informed members that the sitting had been postponed pending the EFF’s legal bid to have the court force a secret ballot on the motion aimed at voting Mahumapelo out as premier.
This brought a sigh of relief for Mahumapelo but more so a ray of hope for ANC MPLs who were eager to vote with the opposition for the removal of one of their own if it was done through secret ballot.
The ANC had 23 seats in the provincial legislature while the opposition parties had a combined 10 seats. The EFF had five seats, the Democratic Alliance had four and the Freedom Front had one.
The EFF said this week it had been in talks with some ANC MPLs who had expressed dissatisfaction about Mahumapelo’s leadership and who said they would be happy to vote him out if the secret ballot could be attained.
The national ANC has had several meetings with the ANC caucus in the legislature, including one that sat from last night until after midnight. At this meeting, the party’s national deployee, Obed Bapela, spoke against the intention by some MPLs to vote with the opposition and against the removal of the embattled premier, who is also the provincial leader of the governing party.
They could vote him out in an open ballot but this would get them into trouble with the ANC.
Mahumapelo’s fellow ANC members and MPLs turned against him after portfolio committees started interrogating issues of alleged corruption and maladministration earlier this year.
One of the cases being investigated by the Hawks was the controversial Mediosa mobile clinic contract. Mediosa is a Gupta-linked company that was paid an advance of R30 million months before it could hit the ground and start working. The company was also awarded an unsolicited contract.
Mahumapelo’s office is also being investigated for the awarding of a multimillion-rand IT contract to another company.
Mahumapelo found himself making headlines again after it was revealed this weekend that his son was irregularly awarded a R1-million bursary for his pilot training by the supposedly financially struggling state-owned arms manufacturing company, Denel.
It appears ANC MPLs started tearing into Mahumapelo and other officials linked to him after the December ANC elective conference, at which the latter’s faction – that supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the party presidency – lost to Cyril Ramaphosa.
Once he was perceived to have lost some muscle, ANC MPLs and other party members suddenly found their voices and started openly criticising Mahumapelo’s leadership.
Alliance partners in the province – the South African Communist Party, Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African National Civic Organisation – also called for his removal.
“Sanco has of course resolved to support the ANC during election but not at the expense of our communities. We can’t continue to give the electorate a raw deal while procurement processes are being disregarded and contravened; when MPLs raise a red flag the ANC led government gets agitated and expects them to keep quiet,” said Sanco provincial secretary Packet Seaketso yesterday.
“The leader of the alliance under the Presidency of Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa must reprimand its Premier [Mahumapelo] and then advise him to do the honourable thing and resign as he continues to embarrass the ANC and has failed to protect the public purse.”