Shades of Mangope in Supra stand

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo.
North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo.
Image: Phill Magakoe

It has been almost a week since the capital of North West province went up in smoke as protesters fought sporadic battles with the police.

It started off as a service delivery protest, a daily occurrence anywhere in South Africa.

The violent demonstrations have spread from Mahikeng to other centres, with repeated calls for the resignation of premier Supra Mahumapelo.

While such protests are par for the course, the scenes of last week are unlike anything South Africa has seen since the dawn of democracy.

There has never been a popular uprising, or anything with a semblance of that, calling for the exit of a democratically elected leader such as Mahumapelo.

It is no wonder that scenes of a burning Mahikeng revived memories of a popular uprising against Lucas Mangope, the leader of the Bantustan who reigned in the area during apartheid.

Mangope believed in the make-believe nation he ruled and refused steadfastly to relent to the blowing winds of change.

In Mahumapelo there are hints of Mangope.

While Mangope sought proverbial refuge from his masters in Pretoria as he clutched to the straws, the latter day ruler of that part of the land is sitting comfortable in the knowledge he has cover from some in his party - the governing ANC.

The goings on in North West must be driving home the point that Cyril Ramaphosa - post his victory at the Nasrec elective conference - is not exactly cracking the whip in the party.

He still has to fight to get the party machinery to pull in one direction.

The president cut short his stay in London, where he was attending a gathering of the British Commonwealth heads of state, to attend to the 'emergency' in Mahikeng, but the protests have continued days after his hurried return.

Constitutionally a president can't appoint or fire a premier, no matter how bad they are - as Mahumapelo evidently has been - but Ramaphosa may well need another strategy if he is to ensure the will of the people prevails, or risk the ANC losing North West in 2019.

We therefore urge him to ramp up efforts to end the mayhem that is engulfing the province.

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