JOHANNESBURG-North West premier Supra Mahumapelo’s position is under threat, after a number of ANC members of the provincial legislature (MPLs) indicated they are ready to support a motion of no confidence in him.

At least nine of the ANC’s 23 MPLs are likely to vote Mahumapelo out. This is on condition that a vote on a motion of no confidence, brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), takes place by secret ballot, City Press has learnt.

The ANC won a total of 23 seats in the legislature in the 2014 elections, including Mahumapelo and Speaker Susan Dantjie. The combined opposition has 10 seats. One ANC MPL is understood to be ill and unable to participate in governance activities.

The provincial DA has supported the EFF’s motion and a majority of 17 votes are required for the motion to succeed.

City Press spoke to five of the nine ANC MPLs expected to support Mahumapelo’s ousting in the event of a secret ballot. All of them expressed dissatisfaction with his leadership.

It will be easy if we can do it in secret. In that way, I can assure you that we’ll all vote right, one MPL said.

Another said he would not mind raising his hand for Mahumapelo to be removed, but said this would haunt me forever in the ANC.

City Press understands that provincial ANC headquarters in Mphekwa House, Mahikeng, has warned its MPLs of consequences if they vote against Mahumapelo.

On Thursday, Dantjie said the motion would be heard in a month, on April 17.

The speaker has not yet decided on that one, she said when asked if the vote would be open or held in secret. Dantjie is also the ANC’s acting North West secretary.

Mahumapelo’s opponents in the province are so optimistic that his fall is imminent that there is already lobbying for candidates to replace him. The three frontrunners are provincial health MEC Magome Masike, ANC MP Philemon Mapulane and provincial executive committee member Mmoloki Cwaile.

The EFF said on Friday it would drag Dantjie to court and try and force her to agree to a secret ballot if she plans to reject their request on the eve of the debate.

EFF leader Alfred Motsi said the party would forcefully demand a decision on the matter during the next sitting on Tuesday. Motsi said they had asked their headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to put respected advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi on standby for a court challenge, in the event that Dantjie turned down their request.

The lack of confidence in Mahumapelo follows a series of tender scandals in the province � involving millions of rands in public funds � some implicating the Gupta family. Despite the state capture allegations against the Guptas, Mahumapelo has openly associated himself with and praised them for their investments in the province.

While Mahumapelo’s involvement in any alleged tender irregularities has yet to be established, last week the elite crime-fighting Hawks unit raided his offices.

Motsi said the EFF’s assessment was that at least seven ANC MPLs would stand with Mahumapelo in the event of a secret ballot.

Nasrec has liberated us, said an ANC MPL moments after grilling a provincial government department official about alleged corruption and tender irregularities during a portfolio committee meeting this week.

He said the elective conference in December, at which Jacob Zuma was ousted as ANC president and replaced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, had left them free to ask about anything without fear. He would not elaborate on what the source of this fear would have been.

Another MPL said they were ready for change in the North West leadership, at both party and provincial government level.

A colleague said the party had already told us, we can’t vote with the opposition. They are meeting over the weekend to discuss their options.

We want Comrade Supra out, but we’re disciplined cadres of the ANC. It is sad that sometimes you can’t do what is right, because you can’t be seen to be betraying one of your own, or the party itself, by voting with the opposition.

It’s even sadder that our hands are tied when we know that our constituencies out there really want us to do the right thing and vote him out, the MPL said, looking despondent.

City Press has established that a group of MPLs who want Mahumapelo out are considering abstaining from voting if the EFF’s request for a secret ballot fails.

None of those asked about this responded, but it is understood that if they cannot vote him out in secret, then they will not vote for him to stay in office.