The ANC’s Mpumalanga Nkangala regional chairperson, Speedy Mashilo, is said to be “licking his wounds” after the shock of being excluded from the Mpumalanga executive council announced by premier Refilwe Mtshweni, with insiders pointing to the one-time ANC strongman’s imminent political demise.
The once former Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza’s frontman served as MEC for human settlements in Mabuza’s Cabinet before he was moved to the corporate governance and traditional affairs portfolio.
But Mtshweni replaced Mashilo, her political boss in the region, with Mandla Msibi in an unexpected move that ignited political shock waves in the province. Mashilo was highly regarded and his sidelining marked the beginning of a process to purge certain leaders that were said to be threat to her power.
Indications are that Mashilo was not only kicked out of government but that ANC branches in the Emalahleni region were now ganging up and mobilising to get rid of him at the next regional elective congress.
“The man is hurt and is licking his wounds, wherever he is. He is not taking any calls, except from his loyalists. He is now plotting a fightback and has nothing to lose. Deep down, he knows the next move would be to disband the regional executive and strip him of his political power,” a senior ANC member in the region said.
He said Mtshweni was eyeing the position of the party’s provincial chairperson that was vacated by Mabuza when he was elected ANC deputy president at Nasrec in December 2017. According to the ANC member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Mtshweni knew that no member in Mashilo’s Nkangala regional executive would support her campaign with their chairperson out in the cold.
“He will be removed as chairperson, mark my words,” he said.
Some party members believe Mashilo’s exclusion from the Cabinet was a carefully orchestrated move to ensure he did not create problems for Mtshweni, who is seen as Mabuza’s ally, whom he imposed on as premier when he vacated the position.
Mtshweni was formerly MEC for traditional affairs in the province, appointed by David Mabuza in 2014, when he returned for a second term as premier. In February last year, Mabuza hand-picked Mtshweni to be acting premier after he became deputy president appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
This shocked many in the province as Mtshweni did not serve in the ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) and Mabuza’s decision caused envy among fellow PEC members.
In 2017, Mashilo survived pressure from some party branches to step down as Nkangala regional chairperson and as MEC because he allegedly did not qualify to serve as ANC regional chairperson as he was supposedly from Gauteng. He denied this allegation at the time.
Mashilo could not be reached for comment and did not reply to messages. Mtshweni said she had no doubt the individuals she } appointed would perform their functions to the best of their abilities.
“My decision on who should form part of the executive has been influenced and informed by the need to balance the demographic imperative of gender and experience,” she said.