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politics

South Africa Government Takes Control of North West Province

Updated on
  • Region has been hit by violent protests against premier
  • Move strengthens President Cyril Ramaphosa’s control

South Africa’s government seized control of North West province as a way to force out Premier Supra Mahumapelo from his post after weeks of violent protests in the region.

The move may help President Cyril Ramaphosa to strengthen his grip over the ruling African National Congress after he won control of the still divided party in a tight election race in December. Mahumapelo, 49, opposed Ramaphosa’s leadership bid and is a close ally of Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign as the nation’s leader in February.

"Supra Mahumapelo" Photo by

Photographer: Tiro Ramatlhatse/Sowetan/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Unhappiness with Mahumapelo’s leadership has been mounting over his handling of a graft scandal and the sidelining of his ANC rivals in North West. Ramaphosa, 65, wrote to the National Council of Provinces on Friday, notifying it of the cabinet’s decision to place the region under national control because it could no longer fulfill its statutory obligations, Parliament said in an emailed statement on Sunday.

“What President Ramaphosa has done now is to use the constitutional powers of government to take control of the province because it is clear that it’s not possible in the ANC to simply go in and replace the leadership that is part of the problem,” Roland Henwood, a political science lecturer at the University of Pretoria, said by phone on Monday.

Temporary Leave

Speculation that Mahumapelo was on the verge of resigning has intensified in recent weeks after several senior ANC leaders said they were discussing whether to remove him from office. He went on temporary leave on May 9 after backtracking on a statement that he would resign. He remains chairman of the ANC in the province.

A special South African police unit known as the Hawks said it raided Mahumapelo’s offices last month in connection with alleged mismanagement, fraud and corruption amounting to about 160 million rand ($13 million).

“You have the internal conflict within the ANC and the leadership contestation, and very clearly Mahumapelo and those who are in his group are not going to give up anything or cooperate with the national ANC leadership, so that leaves government with very few options,” Henwood said.

(Updates with analyst comment in fourth paragraph.)
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