DURBAN – KwaZulu-Natal’s five new MECs are likely to be sworn in on Tuesday while opposition parties labelled the provincial cabinet reshuffle a settling of political scores, with the SACP saying the announcement of its secretary as agriculture MEC was premature.
KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu announced at a press conference on Monday in Durban that Themba Mthembu, the current SACP provincial secretary, had been appointed MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, replacing Cyril Xaba.
However, Nomarashiya Caluza, the SACP’s provincial treasurer, said that Mthembu had neither accepted nor declined the position.
She said that he had informed the ANC that he had to first consult with his party.
“The ANC must give us 24 hours to consult. We are still in that process (of consulting),” she said.
Caluza said that discussions were not only happening at a provincial level, but also at a national level.
The appointment of Mthembu came as a surprise, since he and the SACP have been critical of the ANC and its handling of the process of nominating candidates for the upcoming local government elections.
At one stage the SACP, led by Mthembu, decided to stop participating in the nomination process.
Apart from Xaba being replaced by Mthembu, Mchunu on Monday announced another four new appointments to the provincial executive committee.
The announcement made at the ANC’s provincial headquarters in Durban follows last month’s resignation of former premier Senzo Mchunu.
The two biggest names to fall were Economic Development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu and Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni.
The long-serving Mabuyakhulu was replaced by the KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairman, Sihle Zikalala, while Nkonyeni has been replaced by Mthandeni Dlungwane.
Bongi Sithole-Moloi replaces Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha as MEC for Sports and Recreation.
Mxolisi Kaunda takes over the post of MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison – Willies Mchunu’s former post.
Mchunu said at the press conference that the sacking of the four MECs had followed an assessment of all the members of the executive council.
However, opposition parties said the appointments had nothing to do with the ability to carry out tasks, but was rather the settling of political scores following the ousting of Senzo Mchunu as chairman of the party last year.
Blessed Gwala, the leader of the IFP in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, said: “In spite of recent statements by newly appointed Premier Willies Mchunu that there will be no changes in the KZN cabinet, we knew that it will be pay-back time for those who opposed Senzo Mchunu. This latest move clearly demonstrates that rewards are now being dished out.”
Sizwe Mchunu, the leader of the DA in the provincial legislature, said the appointments had not been made on the basis of whether the person appointed was fit for the job at hand.
Bongi Sithole-Moloi, a former mayor of uMgungundlovu District Municipality who was sacked in 2008 following a vote of no-confidence by the ANC-led council, is the newly appointed Sports and Recreation MEC.
Mchunu said: “It was under her watch that that uMgungundlovu went down. Remember how she herself was recalled by the ANC?”
Dlungwane, the former chairman of the ANC Youth League in the province, broke ranks with then-ANC Youth League president Julius Malema over support for President Jacob Zuma.
Malema had wanted the league to unite behind Kgalema Motlanthe.
Kaunda is also a former ANCYL provincial chairman, while Sithole-Moloi was also a senior figure in the organisation and Zikalala himself worked his way up the league’s ranks.
Caluza said a decision on whether Mthembu should accept the post would be announced on Tuesday morning.
The new appointees are expected to be sworn in at 9am on Tuesday.