'The party is over' - new North West premier warns public servants

Newly-elected North West Premier Job Mokgoro has warned public servants who stay away from work that "the party is over" and that it's time to work.

Mokgoro was delivering his inaugural speech at the provincial legislature in Mahikeng.

The former director general in the province has been described as strict and he has a reputation for ordering people to stay at work until 17:00, even on a Friday.

"The events of the recent past have seen many of us, especially public servants, loitering, not showing up for work at all. Let me remind all concerned, the party is over," he said. 

North West under administration

The province faced a debilitating strike by workers affiliated to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union, that lasted three months.

There were reports of a go slow in other departments at the time when residents held violent protests, demanding that former premier Supra Mahumapelo steps down. He was forced to resign last month. 

Seventy-year-old Mokgoro pledged to prioritise the delivery of services, rebuild trust with communities, clean governance and to follow up on the Auditor General report which showed that all municipalities in the province failed to get a clean audit. 

He has his work cut out, inheriting a province besieged with corruption and collapse of governance allegations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa placed the province under administration earlier this year, limiting his powers as premier. 

He has faced criticism for his old age and his former position in the office of the premier under Mahumapelo's administration, leading the school of governance. 

'Collective responsibility'

"I am not absolving myself from whatever is happening. I think that it would be too childish to say that. Nor do I have to stand on a mountain top and say these are the issues that I have been continually raising.

"Despite what my focus and responsibility has been, I think it is only correct to take collective responsibility. Yes, there is a leader, but I believe that the leadership is all over in any organisation," he said.

Mokgoro acknowledged that residents were angry at the government for failing to deliver services, wasting public resources, corruption, poor leadership and a lack of integrity.  

"Our immediate past, if not our current, is characterised by mistrust, scepticism, anger, [and] disappointment by communities we serve," Mokgoro said.

Calls for cabinet reshuffle

He is facing pressure from some alliance partners in the province to change members of the executive, who are seen as allies of Mahumapelo and blamed for the province's troubles. 

However, Mokgoro said it was too early to tell if he will reshuffle the Cabinet. 

"I will be having one on ones with the executives... we will do performance reviews and it is on the basis of [these] engagements that one decision or the other will be taken," he said in response to questions from journalists at a media briefing. 

Professor Mokgoro made it clear that he understood that he was in the job as a caretaker and expected to step down after the 2019 elections.

"As for myself, I have never resisted going when it is time to go. I am here to ensure that a sound administration is handed over in 2019 and [to ensure] a landslide victory for the ANC." 

Mokgoro was taunted by shouting from the opposition calling him a "pensioner" which he mostly ignored. 

"Septuagenarians like myself, ought to have extensive wisdom and [share] it with young people. I will be doing exactly that in a few months," he said.

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