President Cyril Ramaphosa is using government to solve a political crisis in North West as the province became the first to have its entire provincial government taken over by national government – and analysts are divided in their opinions of the move.
For the first time, an entire provincial government is being put under national administration following a decision by the national executive to invoke section 100 of the constitution, which allows national government to take over a province’s administration.
At the same time, the ruling party has yet to pronounce on the ultimate future of the province’s embattled premier, Supra Mahumapelo, who was placed on special leave by the provincial executive committee of which he is the chair.
While the province has been mired in violent protests and corruption allegations in its health department, political analyst Ralph Mathekga questioned the legality and politics behind the move.
“We hear about placing the province under administration and we question the legality of the whole thing,” he said.
“You cannot just wake up and do that. You need to put down valid reasons and it is important that we also wait for the response of the provincial executive committee (PEC), because they could try to challenge this.”
But constitutional expert Professor Shadrack Gutto believed the move was just as necessary as when three provincial departments in Limpopo were put under administration in 2011.
“I believe that province could not just be left on its own from a political and legal perspective,” said Gutto.
“The president couldn’t allow things to go on like that forever, otherwise it will be ungovernable and, therefore, service delivery would cease to take place.
“We saw it happening in Limpopo, where they put two or three departments under administration.
At the time, I had given the legal opinion that if this was to be done properly, it had to be done under section 100 1(a) or 1(b) [of the constitution], and what has been used in this one is 1(b).”
If not dealt with directly the political leadership crisis in the province could escalate. Gutto questioned Ramaphosa’s motive for invoking section 100.
“Politically, the ANC could have dealt with this at PEC level by dissolving it legally, and constitutionally.
If there was another party running the province, you would still need to demonstrate reasons for invoking section 100.
“You cannot just invoke it arbitrarily to deal with a political crisis. Even if there is some level of genuine concern in that regard, attending to political matters requires engaging directly with the PEC, because they could mobilise against the national leadership, as they have been doing.”
Yesterday, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Thandi Modise confirmed that Ramaphosa notified her on Friday of Cabinet’s decision to place the province under administration.
The constitution, she explained, stated that when a province could not or did not fulfil an executive obligation, the national executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfilment of that obligation.
The matter would follow an ordinary course of parliamentary procedure, including being referred to a parliamentary committee for processing.