South Africa’s Gauteng premier Mbhazima (Sam) Shilowa announced his resignation on Monday following rumours that he supported a breakaway party to the South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The former general secretary of South Africa’s labour union giant Cosatu told reporters on Monday afternoon that he informed the provincial party leadership in the morning of his intention to announce his resignation.

His announcement follows denials earlier in the morning that he any plans to be part of a rumoured breakaway political party.

“I am resigning due to my convictions that while the ANC has the right to recall any of its deployed cadres, the decision needs to be based on solid facts, be fair and just. I also did not feel that I will be able to, with conviction, publicly explain or defend the NEC’s decision on comrade Thabo Mbeki,” Shilowa said in Johannesburg.

He denied that he had been “pushed” to resign but said he was doing it out of principle. “It is a known fact that I hold strong views on the manner of his dismissal and to pretend otherwise would be disingenuous,” Shilowa said, referring to the ANC  NEC’s decision to remove Mbeki from office. “I acknowledge and respect the ANC’s rights to recall any of its deployed cadres. I am, however, of the view that there was no cogent reason for doing so.”

Shilowa denied rumours that he was starting or would be part of a new political party. “I know of no group who is starting another new party. I cannot be party to something I do not know,” Shilowa said.

Earlier his spokesperson Simon Zwane said Shilowa was not involved in any breakaway. “How many times should he deny that? He is still a member of the ANC.”

During the weekend the ANC provincial leadership reportedly reprimanded Shilowa after he criticised Judge Chris Nicholson’s ruling in the Jacob Zuma arms corruption case and the recent move to oust Thabo Mbeki as president.

The Star newspaper reported on Monday that Shilowa had been gagged by the ANC.

“I don’t know. I also read it but I really do not know what they are talking about,” said Zwane.

Shilowa said last week that Nicholson’s judgment had “no basis in law”. “Nicholson said things that aren’t based on anything factual… I have no difficulty with him having an opinion, but you can’t elevate an opinion to a fact.

“He produced no evidence and tested no evidence,” said Shilowa. “I just hope that when the ANC leadership discusses the issue they will separate facts from opinion. I personally don’t think the judgment provides any basis to say the president must go.”

The Democratic Alliance said on Monday that ANC infighting had affected the governance of the Gauteng province. Gauteng DA leader Jack Bloom said he had written a letter to Shilowa, asking him to step into a “bitter row” between public works MEC Ignatius Jacobs and his head of department Sibusiso Buthelezi.

The fall-out between the two men allegedly stemmed from a R692-million (about £46-million) contract Buthelezi awarded to Ilima Projects to complete the Jabulani Hospital in Soweto.

“This contract was cancelled after it was found that Ilima had submitted a fraudulent tax clearance certificate,” said Bloom.

“This is the second time that I have written to Shilowa on this matter. “I am concerned that Shilowa is unable to act on issues like this that demand his urgent attention, as his position as premier is under threat from his internal ANC enemies. The governance of Gauteng is suffering because of ANC infighting.”

Meanwhile newly elected deputy president and ANC national chairwoman, Baleka Mbete, dismissed talk of a new political party for disgruntled members of the ANC as a “waste of energy”.

Mbete was speaking to journalists after addressing Gauteng ANC branches and regions at the Johannesburg City Hall on Sunday. The meeting was part of a national campaign to explain the ANC national executive committee’s decision to recall former President Thabo Mbeki last week.

She said said disgruntled members should take their grievances to internal structures. “The ANC believed that anybody who is thinking of going off and forming another party is wasting their energy.”

“The rules and practices of the ANC allow people to raise whatever grievances they might have and express themselves. So we think it will be a wrong perspective to go off and form another entity,” Mbete said.

The resignation of the Gauteng Premier, Mbazima Shilowa, indicates that the cracks in the ANC are becoming more clearly, the  FF Plus leader in Gauteng, Jaco Mulder, said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

He said Shilowa “is merely another victim of the change of government which is taking p”ace within the ANC. The tension in the ANC is good news for democracy in South Africa.
“An opinion poll which appeared in the Sunday Times newspaper yesterday, indicates in particular that the FF Plus and the DA had shown significant growth in urban areas. The results of the poll also coincide with the growth phenomenon which the FF Plus had experienced recently in the by-elections held in Vereeniging and Pretoria West.”
Mulder said the tension in the ANC in Gauteng opens up new possibilities for opposition politics in the province.