ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

STRUGGLE stalwart Mathole Motshekga has been removed as African National Congress (ANC) chief whip in the National Assembly and replaced by Stone Sizani, who once supported Thabo Mbeki’s challenge to President Jacob Zuma at the ANC’s Polokwane conference.

Mr Motshekga’s removal from the top ANC job in the National Assembly follows months of speculation he would be replaced, as he had failed to gain a place on the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) during the ANC’s Mangaung conference in December.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe made the announcement at a news conference after the weekly caucus meeting on Thursday. "The decision was based on a 2008 NEC policy decision that the chief whip … should also be a member of the NEC," he said.

Asked why it had taken six months to implement the policy, Mr Mantashe said if Mr Motshekga had been removed amid media speculation, it would have seemed journalists were running ANC programmes. The ANC caucus welcomed the appointment.

"Comrade Sizani brings to this position a wealth of political and legislative experience…. He moves from the position of chairman of the portfolio committee on rural development and land reform," it said in a statement.

Mr Sizani, while Eastern Cape ANC chairman, called on former president Thabo Mbeki to oppose Mr Zuma for the party leadership at the 2007 Polokwane conference. Mr Sizani has supported the Zuma leadership since.

Doris Dlakude was appointed as deputy chief whip. Jerry Thibedi replaces Mr Sizani as chairman of the rural development and land reform portfolio committee.

Democratic Alliance chief whip "Watty" Watson said: "We trust that this is an opportunity to once again put the interests of the institution first."

Independent analyst Somadoda Fikeni said Mr Motshekga was known as an academic and cultural activist — and not for his administrative skills.

"This could be seen when the ANC had to postpone debates to speaker Max Sisulu’s great frustration as they (ANC) could not muster sufficient MPs to attend," he said.

With Paul Vecchiatto