GAUTENG Premier Nomvula Mokonyane yesterday seized the opportunity provided by the resignation of Humphrey Mmemezi to rearrange her provincial cabinet, amid indications the African National Congress (ANC) in the province was unwilling to compromise on key portfolios.
The premier is caught up in a struggle created by two centres of power after President Jacob Zuma snubbed ANC provincial chairman Paul Mashatile in 2009, appointing Ms Mokonyane as head of the provincial government instead.
Mr Mmemezi, deputy secretary of the ANC in Gauteng, resigned last week and was found guilty of irregular and negligent use of his official credit card and vehicle. Yesterday, he was replaced by ANC provincial treasurer and former health MEC, Ntombi Mekgwe, in a direct swap between ANC office bearers.
The local government and housing portfolio is seen as a key position since the incumbent has the ability to influence politics at a regional level and in municipalities, particularly as the ANC prepares for its elective conference in Mangaung in December this year.
ANC structures in Gauteng are expected to support leadership change in Mangaung, where Mr Zuma will be seeking re-election for a second term.
Ms Mokonyane is seen as close to Mr Zuma after she became part of the task team that secured Mr Zuma's supporters an election victory in the Free State, where Premier Ace Magashule was re-elected as provincial chairman amid disputes at several branches.
Yesterday ANC Gauteng spokesman Dumisa Ntuli said "the reorganisation and redeployment of MECs will further enhance capacity in government and refocus the departments to serve the people".
Among other changes, former Gauteng economic development MEC Qedani Mahlangu replaced Bheki Nkosi as the new infrastructure development MEC. This made Ms Mahlangu - who is a member of the ANC provincial executive committee in Gauteng - central to the province's R30bn infrastructure rollout plan. Mr Nkosi was appointed the new head of the Gauteng Gambling Board.
Two members of the provincial legislature, Hope Papo and Nkosipendule Kolisile, were elevated to MECs. Mr Papo is now health MEC, replacing Ms Mekgwe, and Mr Kolisile took the place of Ms Mahlangu. Mr Papo comes with 14 years experience as a member of the Gauteng legislature, while Mr Kolisile is the former chairman of the legislature's economic d evelopment portfolio committee.
Mr Papo will be expected to oversee the health department's two-year turnaround plan outlined last week, to avoid a recurrence of the accruals and cash-flow problems that almost brought state hospitals to a standstill.
While the provincial legislature's privileges and ethics standing committee last week found Mr Mmemezi's behaviour "unbecoming" of an MEC and a member of the legislature, Mr Mmemezi remains an ordinary member of the house.
Only the Gauteng ANC had the power to remove Mr Mmemezi from the legislature because he was a "deployed cadre". However, a provincial executive committee meeting on Saturday, according to sources, "considered the matter closed" because he had resigned.
Ms Mokonyane said yesterday she had no responsibility for the deployment of ANC members to the legislature. "I am the premier and I appoint MECs. I do not deploy ANC members to the legislature," Ms Mokonyane said.
It is expected that the Gauteng ANC's integrity committee - which deals with issues of ethics and the image of the party - would still table its report on Mr Mmemezi.
His case, and that of legislature speaker Lindiwe Maseko - who was last week cleared on allegations of improperly influencing a tender process - were the first two since the integrity committee was formed.
However, Mr Mmemezi is the subject of another investigation after he was accused of setting up a trade union shop steward to be fired when he was a human resources official at Mogale City before he was appointed MEC in 2010.
Gauteng ANC legislature chief whip and provincial executive committee member Brian Hlongwa said on Sunday the ANC would consider the matter as details of the investigation became available.