Op-edPublications

Op Ed | Cyril Ramaphosa’s New Dawn is Breaking in Mahikeng

By Thokozani J Chilenga

President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about a “new dawn” in his state of the nation address earlier this year. Since then, the new dawn has been repeated as a positive mantra of change in SA’s politics and governance.

But every dawn needs to break — which usually means a battle between the night and the rising sun. If we trust the metaphor, we must recognise widespread protests, in Mahikeng, North West, as indicative of issues in governance across provinces around the country. And when considering how to deal with these, the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) has to tread carefully around political and administrative actions, and ramifications that may follow.

Political actions

Protesters in the North West have taken to the streets in dissatisfaction with the provincial leadership of Premier Supra Mahumapelo. Protesters’ concerns are rampant corruption in the province, while unions cite lack of service delivery in the provincial health and education departments. Ramaphosa demonstrated decisive action by cutting short his UK trip to be in the North West with the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) to resolve the issue.

By Friday evening, the President stated that although they were working hard to resolve the issue, it had to be carefully thought out. It requires “that we are able to get all the information that will enable us to make a decision going forward … a rational decision … [based on] evidence, proper analysis, proper evaluation”. And there is good reason for this.

In 2010, Limpopo was facing similar claims about a lack of service delivery and a general collapse in provincial administrative structures. The official cause was that departments, such as education, did not have the cash flow required to continue to meet their service delivery mandates.

The alleged political cause of the collapse, however, was that the provincial ANC leadership at the time was not going to support then-president Jacob Zuma at the coming elective conference. It was politically expedient for the Zuma faction to remove the Limpopo leadership and put the province under administration. The EFF’s Julius Malema spoke about this at a press briefing. And those au fait with the provincial politics in Limpopo have reiterated political interference as the cause of the collapse and subsequent administrative challenges in the northernmost province.

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Thoko J Chilenga is a PhD candidate and associate lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, and a fellow at the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI). Her PhD research focuses on decentralisation in SA’s governance.