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Glimmer of hope for KZN women in politics

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Picture: Supplied – Newly elected KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube.

By Bheki Mngomezulu

KwaZulu-Natal has experienced mixed fortunes since the beginning of this year. In April, the province was hit by devastating floods which took many lives and destroyed the infrastructure – leaving scores of people destitute.

As the province tried frantically to pick up the pieces and regroup, the floods struck once again in May, albeit in a much lesser magnitude compared to what had happened in the previous month. Again, there was pandemonium which engulfed the province. Consequently, a state of disaster had to be declared by the national government so that more resources could be mobilised and channelled to the provincial government.

To this day, KZN is still recovering from these two incidents. It will take time before the situation comes back to normal.

But, while these two developments left a bitter taste in the mouth and created evident havoc which remains discernible on many fronts, it is pleasing to note that in the realm of politics, the province has done exceptionally well. In fact, during this year, KZN has made history in more than one way. I will enumerate a few incidents to expound this claim.

First, when the ANC held its provincial conference in July, Nomagugu Simelane was elected as provincial Deputy Chairperson of the ANC. This is something that has never happened in the history of the ANC in this province since the dawn of democracy in 1994.

Not surprisingly, this development was applauded by many – including even people who are not necessarily members of the ANC as well as those who support other political parties. During the same conference where Simelane was elected into the very important position

As mentioned above, the new chairperson of the ANC in KZN, Siboniso Duma impressed many soon after emerging victorious against his predecessor, Sihle Zikalala.

Duma contained what would have been a volatile political situation at this conference. He was able to calm down the emotions of some of the delegates who were determined to disrupt the closing address by ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa on the last day of the conference due to many concerns they had. As some of the delegates broke out in song singing: “Wenzeni u Zuma?” [What has Zuma done?] – referring to former President Jacob Zuma and the endless list of court cases – Duma instantly took to the podium and pleaded with the delegates to hold their disgruntlement.

Strategically, he agreed with them that indeed, there were several issues which the ANC in the KZN province wanted to discuss with the ANC national leadership. However, he told these delegates that the provincial conference was not the time and place to raise their concerns.

Instead, he advised them to hold on to their concerns until the ANC’s National Policy Conference which was scheduled to take place from 28-31 July 2022. Indeed, they listened to him and allowed Ramaphosa to deliver his concluding speech uninterrupted. Once again, KZN was portrayed in a good light as Duma demonstrated his leadership dexterity.

In the main, the mood at the conference was encouraging. The province made history when it agreed on the credentials in less than 30 minutes. This was the direct opposite of what had happened in provinces such as the Eastern Cape and Gauteng where the provincial conferences were either delayed or could not conclude business during the scheduled sitting.

The KZN conference proceeded smoothly until the election process was concluded.

Those who had lost (including Sihle Zikalala who lost to Siboniso Duma as the chairperson of the ANC) congratulated their comrades who were successful on the day. What was also encouraging was to hear Duma stating categorically in his leadership acceptance speech that he, together with his entire leadership team, had no intention to purge those who had lost the election. Instead, he preached unity and the need for the collective to focus on ensuring that services reached the people of the province and ensuring that the provincial economy was improved so that it could create jobs and address poverty.

Such statements allayed fears that Zikalala who had been unable to make it to the PEC would be removed from the position of the provincial Premier before 2024. The notion of the so-called ‘two centres of power’ as espoused by some in 2016 did not prevail. This was something fresh. For leaders who come from the same organisation, the so-called ‘two centres of power’ is a fallacy. That is why in Gauteng Premier David Makhura has remained the Premier even though the provincial chairperson is Panyaza Lesufi.

Although things had gone well up to this point, the unexpected decision that Sihle Zikalala was going to tender his resignation as Premier of the province came as a shock. Soon after this announcement had been made public, it left many people guessing as to what would happen in terms of initiating the process to replace him.

Here, too, the ANC leadership in KZN took many by surprise. Instead of letting Duma take over from Zikalala in the same manner that Zikalala himself had taken the reigns from Senzo Mchunu after emerging victorious as the ANC chairperson in 2016, the new leadership did things differently. It submitted the names of three women to be interviewed for the position of Premier – all of whom were Members of the KZN Provincial Legislature (MPLs). These were: Amanda Bani-Mapena, Mbali Fraser and Nomusa Dube-Ncube. No matter who would emerge victorious as the new Premier among them, what was clear was that the province had already made history by proposing that a woman should replace Zikalala to lead the province.

Once the ANC had concluded its interview process as it had done with all other Premiers across the country, Nomusa Dube-Ncube emerged victorious. All that was left was for her to be officially elected by the provincial government and subsequently be sworn in to assume

the provincial leadership position as the new Premier. Indeed, a special sitting of the KZN Legislature convened at Mpofana Local Municipality in Mooi River last Wednesday. Although some members opted not to vote for whatever reason, and although the DA decided to field its own candidate (Mmabatho Tembe) who contested against Dube-Ncube and

obtained 11 votes, the special sitting confirmed Dube-Ncube as the new Premier of KwaZulu-Natal with 45 votes. She was subsequently sworn in by Judge Isaac Madondo as the new provincial Premier. This was history in the making since having a female Premier was unprecedented in KZN since 1994!

The fact that this historic event happened during Women’s Month gave the new development more impetus. Not only did women have to celebrate that one of their own had been elected to be the Deputy Chairperson of the ANC in the province, they now had to celebrate the appointment of the first-ever female Premier too.

What was impressive about Dube’Ncube’s elevation into this position was the fact that she did not get this position just because she was a woman. On the contrary, the province elected someone with credentials, knowledge and experience. Dube-Ncube once served as the Speaker of eThekwini Municipality. She also served as South Africa’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Within the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, she served in different portfolios such as being the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as well as being MEC for Finance. Moreover, she has served as a PEC member. This experience made her stand out.

The election of someone of Dube-Ncube’s calibre redefined the ANC’s ‘cadre deployment policy. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this policy. In fact, it is neither confined to the ANC nor to South Africa. Other political parties and other countries may refer to it using different names but do exactly the same thing.

The main criticism levelled against this policy is that at times incompetent and undeserving ‘cadres’ are deployed into positions. Whenever this happens, service delivery takes a back seat. In the process, intermittent service delivery protests engulf the country. Importantly, the image of the ANC is tarnished.

By electing or appointing deserving female cadres like Nomagugu Simelane and Nomusa Dube-Ncube, the ANC brought a glimmer of hope that the province is heading in the right direction.

Following the formalisation of her appointment as the new Premier, Dube-Ncube promised to increase the number of women in leadership positions in the province. Indeed, only one day after being sworn in, she oversaw her first Cabinet reshuffle, which she announced last Thursday.

Noticeably, apart from Simelane who was retained as MEC for Health and Bongi Sithole-Moloi who was retained as MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dube- Ncube ensured that more women than men formed part of her leadership team. These included the following: Mbali Fraser who replaced Kwazi Mshengu as MEC for Education, Amanda Bani-Mapena who replaced Hlengiwe Mavimbela as MEC for Sports, Arts and Culture and Peggy Nkonyeni who was moved from Transport and Community Safety to Treasury. There is a glimmer of hope for women!

This article is original to the The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.