Lucas vs Saul in battle for Northern Cape ANC

Urgent cabinet reshuffle heightens tempers ahead of elective conference

Lucas vs Saul in battle for Northern Cape ANC

11 May 2017

Colesberg - The gloves are off in the tumultuous battle for control of the African National Congress in the Northern Cape, as Premier Sylvia Lucas and party provincial secretary Zamani Saul go head to head for the position of chair of the province.

Lucas' urgent cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday has heightened tempers ahead of the elective conference getting underway in Colesberg on Thursday.

Lucas' reshuffle has been labelled a purge of Saul's supporters.

She appointed Gail Parker who is spokesperson of the Women's League in the province as MEC of Economic Development, Finance and Treasury while ANC Youth League provincial chair Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba was appointed MEC for Public Works.

The other appointments were of Sandra Beukes as MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison while Mxolisi Sokatash was appointed MEC for Sports, Arts and Culture.

'Brazen move'

Several people in Saul's camp said they believe the reshuffle was orchestrated with the support of national leaders within the party's leagues.

"The gloves are off, it was a brazen move and as you saw the ANC statement: They are now very angry," said one party member who will be attending the elective conference.

The Northern Cape ANC said in a statement that they noted the reshuffle with "absolute disgust" and threatened that there would be "consequences".

It is understood that Saul was already in Colesberg preparing for conference, when Lucas, who is also the party's provincial treasurer, announced the reshuffle.

Saul told News24 on Wednesday that Lucas will be summoned to a meeting to explain her actions. He labelled the move an "ambush" and said none of the ANC structures were consulted.

"I was really shocked to hear about that [reshuffle] - as a matter of fact it is an ambush. Not a single one of us was expecting it to happen," Saul said.

The party will have to convene a meeting with the premier to find out "why she blatantly and flagrantly disregarded the normal ANC processes", Saul said.

He said the issue was not even raised at the Provincial Executive Committee meeting that was held on Monday.

Deeply divided

Another party source said Lucas did not have the numbers at congress, and a motion was expected to be brought saying that there should not be two centres of power in the province.

"They can just move that the chairperson becomes premier and then Lucas will be out," she said.

However, Lucas received support from her traditional support base of the Women's League and the Frances Baart region - the largest in the province.

Regional chair Thapelo Dithebe said Lucas was bold.

"All sectors of our society need to welcome the boldness of the premier in affirming women and youth in positions of authority. Structures of the movement have for some time been calling for gender transformation and generational mix, and today these clarion calls are being realised," Dithebe said.

He also denounced Northern Cape Cosatu's calls for the premier to be removed for the reshuffle.

"They cannot be taken serious[ly]. These calls do not represent the views of the workers, the poor and the marginalised, but they represent narrow factional views of a small group in Cosatu," Dithebe said.

The province has been deeply divided ahead of the conference, which was postponed several times.

Elective conference support

On Tuesday, a group of disgruntled supporters marched on the party's Luthuli House headquarters, and some of their leaders refused to leave until they met with President Jacob Zuma.  They were demanding that the conference be postponed.

News 24 understands that the leaders of the group eventually met with deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte who said she cannot postpone the election, but will write a report to officials and to National Working Committee member Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

The group has accused Saul of gatekeeping and the manipulation of audit processes and branch nomination meetings.

"It is clear that they want to steal the conference, but we will not allow them. We will continue to state... the wrongdoings and wrong doers," one of the leaders said.

He said they would not be attending the conference.

Saul has rejected the allegations.

"I did not do the audit of branches, there is no team led by me that did the audit of branches - it's all done by Luthuli House," Saul said.

The conference is also seen as an attempt to consolidate support for the ANC December elective conference potentially pitting the party and the country's deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa against former AU commission chair Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Saul rejected claims that he said he supports Ramaphosa, however, the past 50 years have shown that the "attitude" of members of the ANC "is that when the president leaves, the deputy president must step in".