Sihle Zikalala. Picture: GETTY
Sihle Zikalala. Picture: GETTY

With the elections over and the governing ANC dropping by 10 percentage points in KwaZulu-Natal, the focus has now turned on who will become the premier. 

One of the front runners is Sihle Zikalala, the current chair of the ANC in the province. He has served so many times as acting premier for the ill Willies Mchunu that he earned the tag “permanent acting premier”. The other contender is Nomusa Dube-Ncube, the KwaZulu-Natal ANC’s provincial treasurer.

Other names being touted are provincial deputy secretary Sipho Hlumuka and the ANC’s provincial spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu.

The 61-year-old Mchunu has indicated that he is not willing to serve another term, and allegedly is expecting to retire. He recently collapsed while delivering the state of the province speech earlier this year.

The ANC structures in the province are said to have taken positions on the succession matter, with the Youth League apparently firmly behind Zikalala’s elevation. 

But others within the structures are strongly lobbying for Dube-Ncube, saying that since 1994 the province has not had a female premier and that she is the longest-serving member of the provincial cabinet among the contenders. 

However she has been accused of allegedly allowing a company owned by her husband to win lucrative tenders with the provincial government, an accusation that she has angrily denied. 

Xolani Dube, an independent political analyst said the decision on who becomes premier poses both dangers and opportunities for the Cyril Ramaphosa-led ANC, which has just emerged with a fresh, though reduced, mandate from the electorate.

“I think Nomusa Dube-Ncube ticks all the [boxes] to become a premier. First she is a woman and the province has never been led by a woman. Secondly, she is most senior of all the contenders in terms of government experience. However, if Ramaphosa were to go for her instead of Sihle [Zikalala] some would consider that as a snub and could easily accuse him [Ramaphosa] of dividing and dealing with those who did not vote for him going to Nasrec,” said Dube.

Professor Bheki Mngomezulu, a political analyst with the University of Western Cape, says Zikalala is next in line for the position of the premier.

“This is a very dicey issue for President Ramaphosa and the entire leadership of the ANC. You will remember that whenever Willies Mchunu was ill, Zikalala had assumed the position of the premier, without fail,” Mngomezulu

“From where I am standing, Zikalala is likely to succeed Mchunu as the next premier. This would happen unless there are behind-the-scenes horse trading and deals which would see a woman leading the province for the first time since 1994.”