The beleaguered North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo was expected to end speculation and finally announce his resignation when he addresses the media on Wednesday morning.
This after the sluice gates of speculation were flung open following Mahumapelo’s delivery of his office’s budget in the provincial legislature on Tuesday.
There was little interest in the R775-million budget for the premier’s office, with the ears of those in the legislature only starting to prick up when he started talking beyond the figures and off script.
Dressed in a blue suit that earned him compliments from Democratic Alliance leader in the province Joe McGluwa, Mahumapelo tried hard to appear calm and unfazed.
This was a man who faced a motion of no confidence initiated by the Economic Freedom Fighters.
The motion was followed by widespread violent protests across the province as communities called for Mahumapelo’s removal.
The call also gained support from the ANC’s alliance partners – the SA National Civic Organisation, the SA Communist Party and Cosatu – as well as a huge faction within the governing party in the province.
It was all based on allegations of corruption, tender irregularities and “self-enrichment”.
Health services, particularly in Mahikeng, were brought to a halt and required intervention from the military, with soldiers from medical services taking over a local hospital.
In the backdrop there were scandals, including the R180-million dubiously awarded mobile clinic contract to Gupta-linked company, Mediosa.
The almost paralysed health department in the province was put under administration.
All this had left Mahumapelo in the spotlight although he had often denied being involved in supply chain matters and challenged those who make allegations to prove them.
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently deployed a team of ministers led by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to probe the allegations and intervene where needed.
Dlamini-Zuma and the team were said to have heard damning submissions by senior government officials on how the provincial departments had been used for “self-enrichment”.
It was understood that some officials opened up on serious tender irregularities that affected service delivery negatively.
With the national elections next year and a cloud hanging over Mahumapelo’s head, it was understood that the ANC was determined not to start campaigning while he still occupied a leadership position and risk losing potential voters.
This was the reason the party’s national working committee decided on his recall and Ramaphosa also asked him in a one-on-one meeting to step down. Mahumapelo stuck to his guns and chose to stay on.
It was no surprise then that the numbers in his budget speech didn’t garner much attention when pitted against his statements, which were loaded with strong undertones and hints that he could be on his way out. Many believed this was his last address of the legislature as the premier.
It was, however, a vague statement that wasn’t in his prepared speech that led to speculation about his imminent departure.
“In some critical instances of our lives, we are called upon as part of humanity to create the essence of the absence of presence. It is therefore in this context of creating the essence of the absence of presence that in full compliance with the Constitution of the republic, the speaker will receive a commitment in writing before Friday this week in ensuring that we create the essence of the absence of presence (sic),” Mahumapelo said.
“We must, all of us as the province, work together to ensure that it becomes more significant of our collective ability to rise and forge ahead any time and every time we stumble. I urge people of our province to be forever vigilant in ensuring that the stability we need for our economic growth and job creation is achieved.”
He ended off with a Tswana idiom: “Nko ya kgomo mogala tshwara thata e se rego utlwa sebodu wa kgaoga” which, loosely translated, meant “even in hard times and difficulty, hold on tight”.
Some people believed there were some signs that Mahumapelo had come to bid farewell to the provincial legislature.
One of these signs was when, at the beginning of his speech, Mahumapelo acknowledged the presence of his wife, Kule, and thanked her for her support.
Mahumapelo said Kule normally attended the legislature once a year for the state of the province address but she was present on Tuesday.
Quoting the late statesman Nelson Mandela during his inaugural speech in 1994, Mahumapelo said: “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.”
Asked what it was that Mahumapelo was expected to address the media about on Wednesday, his spokesperson Brian Setswambung said it was “unclear”.