From the frying pan into the fire for Modise
OUTGOING African National Congress (ANC) deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise’s last task was ironically to oversee the controversial credentials of her own province.
Conference delegates opposed to President Jacob Zuma’s re-election questioned the participation of pro-Zuma delegates from North West, along with those from the Free State, following two court judgments.
On Monday, Ms Modise handed over the baton to ANC national executive member and former ANC spokeswoman Jessie Duarte, who was nominated unopposed for the position of deputy secretary-general.
Ms Modise is due to take on incumbent Baleka Mbete for the position of party chairwoman.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ANC’s Mangaung conference, Ms Modise restrained herself just when she was about to open up on her last five years in office and the twin responsibility of being North West premier. "I’m always too honest, so I must learn to be a politician."
Until Ms Modise, the last representative in the top echelons of the ANC from the region that is now North West province, was Solomon Plaatje — who was an ANC founding member and its first secretary-general in 1912.
Ms Modise was the first female deputy secretary-general of the ANC to finish a term in office.
"It was an honour for me to be elected" at Polokwane in 2007.
But she described her first days in office under secretary-general Gwede Mantashe as "rough".
"I don’t think he was used to working with women."
Three years after her election, Ms Modise was deployed into government, becoming the fourth premier of "unstable" North West. It is a "difficult" province and demands attention around the clock. "There are many things that still need to be worked on ."
Taking up the dual roles opened her up to criticism of being "absent" from her duties in either the ANC or North West. "The challenges of always running between two provinces was taking a toll." She was expected to be in Luthuli House (in Gauteng) for the official meetings on Mondays. "It was tough."
Ms Modise said her deployment to North West was a decision of the national executive committee — it was not a choice. "I chickened out several times until the President (Mr Zuma) said I must go."
Some in the ANC saw her deployment as an attempt to keep her out of Mr Mantashe’s way. "I am aware of that talk and I would rather not respond."
She had access to Mr Mantashe whenever she needed to brief him, she says. "Finally, we became comfortable with one another, so it was not an issue at all."