Former ANC chairs say violence after nomination meetings in Mpumalanga is linked to graft
Any Mpumalanga ANC activist who attends a party meeting has no guarantee of returning home alive, if past and recent events are anything to go by.
The province’s ANC meetings have been a powder keg for about a decade now.
Branch meetings, especially ones where comrades are to be nominated for leadership positions in a region or province, turn into brawls where chairs and water bottles are thrown around.
Sometimes guns and knives are wielded, resulting in people being killed.
ANC member Prince Manzini was allegedly assaulted by a mob until he died. This happened at a branch nomination meeting in KaBokweni.
According to three former ANC chairpeople in Mpumalanga, the root of all this evil lies in the modern practice of dispensing money to win delegates over, as well as in the pursuit of a luxury lifestyle.
On March 15, ANC member Prince Manzini was allegedly assaulted by a mob until he died.
This happened at a branch nomination meeting in KaBokweni.
Another member survived after he was stabbed in the head.
“How do we explain to families what happened when our members go to ANC meetings and return home in a hearse? This is wrong and has no place in the ANC,” said the party’s acting provincial chairperson, Mandla Ndlovu.
Mpumalanga is preparing for a provincial elective conference, the first to be contested since 2008, when the country’s deputy president, David Mabuza, was elected provincial ANC chairperson.
Ndlovu is contesting to take over from Mabuza, who left two years ago, as is Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane.
The province’s former ANC deputy chair, David Dube, has launched a late campaign in the race for the leadership post, but it appears that the factions backing Ndlovu and Mtshweni-Tsipane are stronger at present.
Manzini was Ndlovu’s lobbyist.
However, having worked closely with Sibusiso Mathonsi, the executive mayor of the City of Mbombela, as a messenger, his support for Ndlovu came as a surprise – because Mathonsi lobbies for the “Ngqi” faction of Mtshweni-Tsipane.
When they see that they do not have numbers, they just send the hooligans in to cause chaos
A local ANC member
Another comrade was fatally shot on the same weekend in Ermelo, in Ward 5.
He had allegedly tried to disrupt the branch meeting because the Focus faction, led by Ndlovu, had the upper hand.
A local ANC member said: “When they see that they do not have numbers, they just send the hooligans in to cause chaos.”
Another member in Ward 2 (Belfast), in Bushbuckridge, is fighting for his life in hospital after he was shot on March 11.
He had allegedly come to the branch to disrupt the meeting where the Focus faction had an upper hand.
This is a new phenomenon
This violence, said three former ANC chairpeople in Mpumalanga, was first triggered when comrades started using money to lobby for conferences.
According to the deputy minister of tourism, Fish Mahlalela – who was ANC chairperson in Mpumalanga from 2002 to 2005 – the patronage started in 2005.
At that elective conference he lost to Thabang Makwetla, who is currently the deputy minister of defence and military veterans.
“Violence is a new phenomenon,” said Mahlalela.
“In my time there was no money involved in campaigning for positions.”
Mahlalela said branch members had freedom of choice when it came to selecting leaders, as enshrined in the Constitution.
“It was in 2005 that comrades started putting money into conferences. In my political report, I warned the conference that there was a new tendency of Fak’imali uzobona [put money and see the results]. This became worse at the 2008 conference [at which Mabuza was elected the ANC’s provincial chair]. Money was flying all over, but not to the extent that it is now,” he said.
This violence is informed by people who want to retain power at all costs
Deputy minister of tourism, Fish Mahlalela
Mahlalela said too much money was invested in conferences, and this had turned them into “do or die” situations.
“This violence is informed by people who want to retain power at all costs,” he added.
Former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, who was provincial ANC chair from 1990 to 1999, said there was no violence in branches during his reign.
“Not a single person was killed for political positions. We so easily respected the democratic processes of the ANC. This violence thing is extremely un-ANC; it is disgusting and horrifying,” Phosa said.
Makwetla, who was provincial chair from 2005 to 2008, said Mpumalanga seemed to be leading the pack in introducing bad practices in the ANC.
“What we are witnessing is unprecedented and taboo,” he said.
“The ANC in Mpumalanga has the propensity to incubate these practices ahead of everybody. It is not only an ANC problem … we have a lumpen element within our society of people who pursue luxurious lives and are prepared to kill.”
Makwetla warned that these conflicts would spiral out of control and draw in ordinary community members.
Ehlanzeni worst hit by incidents
The violence appears to be at its worst in Ehlanzeni District Municipality and the region’s former chairperson, Ngrayi Ngwenya, features prominently in this regard.
Ngwenya was accused of assaulting acting provincial secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali on July 17.
Ngwenya and the region’s acting treasurer, Phindile Nkuna, allegedly punched Ntshalintshali after they objected to information from the task team that was looking into the merger of the Ehlanzeni and Bohlabelo regions, in line with the Municipal Demarcation Board’s boundaries.
Peter Nyoni, who had announced that he was contesting the post of provincial chair, experienced three burglaries in one week at his Oppikoppi Estate home in Mbombela
It is alleged that Ngwenya and Nkuna arrived at the venue with a group of party members, disrupted the regional general council and threw punches at Ntshalintshali, who was about to announce the names of the task team members, as mandated by the provincial working committee.
The ANC’s national disciplinary committee acquitted Ngwenya but found Nkuna guilty. Ntshalintshali also laid criminal assault charges against the two.
Contenders for positions have also not been immune to skulduggery.
In September, Peter Nyoni, who had announced that he was contesting the post of provincial chair, experienced three burglaries in one week at his Oppikoppi Estate home in Mbombela.
Before the 2015 elective conference, in which he also intended to stand, his vehicles were vandalised at his other home in Valencia Park, also in Mbombela.
The contenders in the 2012 provincial elective conference – Charles Makola, who was the ANC’s provincial deputy chairperson, and Clifford Mkasi, its then provincial treasurer – beefed up their security after receiving intelligence reports that their lives were in danger.