The rise and fall (and possible resurrection) of Black Jesus

Ideas

The rise and fall (and possible resurrection) of Black Jesus

Supra has finally succumbed to pressure to 'retire' as North West premier, but his woes aren't over – or are they?

Sunday Times political editor

Supra Mahumapelo is headed back to the political wilderness after he finally succumbed to pressure from the ANC to quit his position as the premier of North West.
His woes are not over as his detractors within the ANC national executive committee are most likely going to push that the highest decision-making structure disband the North West executive committee.
Mahumapelo has been here before.
In 2009, the Jacob Zuma-led ANC disbanded the North West provincial executive as it was deemed to be factional.
But insiders insisted that Zuma was merely punishing Mahumapelo – who was then provincial secretary – for leading a delegation that supported former president Thabo Mbeki at the Polokwane conference two years earlier.
Mahumapelo was said to be so angry with Zuma that he is said to have actively participated in the formation of the ANC-splinter party, Congress of the People – but never joined officially.However, he managed to manoeuvre his way into Zuma’s inner circle after he was elected provincial chairman in 2011.
It was Mahumapelo, and other provincial chairmen at the time including Ace Magashule, David Mabuza and Zweli Mkhize, who delivered Zuma’s second term in Mangaung in 2012.
At the time the North West government was under the control of someone who was perceived to be an outsider, then ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise. Although Modise was premier, everyone knew who called the shots in North West – the man referred to by his supporters as Black Jesus.
As chairperson of the ANC, Mahumapelo had control of not only provincial government, but also local government.
He used his power to distribute patronage – and there are allegations that he also enriched himself in the process.
Mahumapelo cemented his position in the Zuma faction enough for the ANC to appoint him premier after the 2014 general elections. He then formed a strong bond with Magashule and Mabuza, and the three would influence not only government decisions, but their fingerprints are found in internal ANC election outcomes.Mahumapelo was in firm grip of not just the government, but also the public purse.
He created a lot of enemies – as only those who sang his praises were allocated space at the dinner table.
But he proved to be too powerful to push out. Some of his political foes were thrown in the political dust bin and others were killed.
One of his most vocal critics, late businessman Wandile Bozwana, was killed in 2015. His murder remains a mystery.
In the meantime, Mahumapelo’s influence in the ANC grew. His ally, Des van Rooyen, was appointed to the important Finance minister post – and, when he was removed, his province later tried to have Brian Molefe, another North West resident, appointed to the same position. Mahumapelo protege Collen Maine was elected ANC Youth League president while his other ally Meokgo Matuba occupied the influential position of ANC Women’s League secretary general.
This made Mahumapelo seem invincible. However, it was his faction’s delivery of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that sealed his fate.
Mahumapelo’s skeletons started trickling out of the closet soon after Nasrec. His long suspected links with the controversial Gupta family were made public.
Information about upfront payments made to Gupta-linked company Mediosa came in handy for  his detractors.
The Cosatu-affiliated union Nehawu also put pressure on Mahumapelo to go when its members in the provincial social development department downed tools in January. This was followed by a similar move by health workers – prompting some communities in the province to join the protest.
Earlier this month Mahumapelo tendered his resignation – only to withdraw it days later.
On Wednesday, he announced his “early retirement”. But as he has shown over the years, Black Jesus is capable of rising again.

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