30 September 2008

South Africa: ANC Wants Premier Replaced Speedily

Johannesburg — THE African National Congress (ANC) top brass says Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa should be replaced without delay.

The ANC national working committee yesterday outlined the process that needed to be followed by the provincial executive committee (PEC) in choosing the new premier.

The PEC will have to nominate three candidates for the post. The frontrunner is Gauteng ANC chairman and finance MEC Paul Mashatile. Other possible contenders include ANC Women's League (ANCWL) president and education MEC Angie Motshekga, and provincial deputy chairwoman and housing MEC Nomvula Mokonyane.

Motshekga contested for the chairman's position last year but was beaten by Mashatile, while Mokonyane is an ambitious leader who challenged Motshekga for the position of ANCWL president .

Shilowa resigned as premier of Gauteng yesterday after days of speculation on his political future.

Shilowa is the latest victim of the post-Polokwane battle within the ANC, which saw former president Thabo Mbeki being recalled and some members of his cabinet resigning.

A shake-up in provincial politics is expected this week as calls to axe Free State Premier Beatrice Marshoff intensified yesterday. Earlier this year, Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela and her Western Cape counterpart, Ebrahim Rasool, were also axed.

Shilowa has been a vocal Mbeki supporter and critic of the ANC decision to axe him. The Star newspaper reported yesterday that at a meeting attended by newly appointed Deputy President Baleka Mbete, the ANC in the province decided to gag Shilowa after his comments on Mbeki's dismissal.

Shilowa was last week quoted in the Mail & Guardian as having said Judge Chris Nicholson's judgment on ANC president Jacob Zuma had "no basis in law".

In declaring the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA's) decision to charge Zuma invalid, Nicholson said the president or the cabinet had interfered in the functioning of the NPA. This was one of the reasons that led to Mbeki's removal before his term expired.

Yesterday, a defiant Shilowa said he stood by every word he had said in the Mail & Guardian interview. "I am resigning due to my conviction that while the ANC has a right to recall any of its deployed cadres, the decision needs to be based on solid facts, be fair and just," said Shilowa.

"I also did not feel that I will be able to, with conviction, publicly explain or defend the NEC's (national executive council's) decision on comrade Thabo Mbeki."

He said that in a meeting with the ANC leadership yesterday, they denied that they decided to gag him. He said he remained a loyal member of the ANC and dismissed speculation that he was part of a group orchestrating the formation of a new party.

Shilowa said he notified the ANC of his intention to resign on the day Mbeki's sacking was made public. Although he preferred to leave office at the end of next month, Shilowa told reporters he would vacate his office when his replacement had been identified.

Gauteng ANC spokesman Nkeke Kekana said the ANC's Gauteng provincial executive committee would discuss the matter tomorrow, including when the resignation would come into effect.

Jack Bloom, the Democratic Alliance leader in Gauteng, said Shilowa's resignation showed there was no room in the ANC leadership for principled people who cared about democracy and the constitution.

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