Rasool takes his cue and quits

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

Embattled Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool resigned yesterday at a press conference in Cape Town convened by ANC national chairman Baleka Mbete.

Finance and tourism MEC Lynne Brown will take over as the province's premier.

Rasool's resignation follows an ANC national executive committee decision to axe him and Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela.

The ANC in Western Cape has been racked by divisions.

Rasool led a group of who supported President Thabo Mbeki for the ANC presidency at last year's Polokwane conference. This group clashed with a group favouring Jacob Zuma, led by ANC provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha.

Tensions culminated in the near-fatal stabbing of Skwatsha at an ANC branch meeting last month, allegedly by an ANC member.

Yesterday Mbete was at pains to stress that Rasool was not being singled out for causing divisions in the ANC. He said it was neither a "punishment" nor a "purge".

Though Rasool said Mbete had "reassured" him that he was not being purged, he made repeated veiled calls to the ANC's leadership not to hold him solely responsible for the chaotic state of the party in the province.

ANC insiders from the Zuma camp say they have not been given any indication that they will be held accountable for divisions in the province.

UCT politics lecturer Zwelethu Jolobe said the problems in Western Cape were not only Rasool's fault. Rasool's axing could easily be "perceived as the ANC's NEC siding with one group at the expense of the other group".

"To remove Rasool before his term expires sends out the kind of message . that Rasool is the one most responsible for the current tensions," Jolobe said.

"He said the NEC should have left the decision to the party's provincial conference.

Meanwhile, Rasool said that once he was told he faced the axe, "resignation was always going to be my only option".

But he did not rule out standing for a position at the coming provincial ANC conference.

"There is no restriction on my standing," he said.

A document leaked to the Cape Argus yesterday said Rasool, among others, was axed for protecting safety and security MEC Leonard Ramatlakane, who was accused of using government funds to renovate his own house.

In the document Rasool is also accused of having paid "two Cape Argus political journalists to run a campaign against certain ANC leaders ... to paint them as corrupt and racist" and also "rewarded the journalists with government contracts".