The ANC’s national disciplinary committee’s (NDC’s) decision to acquit Mpumalanga ANC heavyweight Ngrayi Ngwenya of assaulting the party’s provincial acting secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali in July has brought into question the committee’s impartiality.
The Ehlanzeni regional chairperson, notorious for his irascible temperament, faced an internal charge after he assaulted Ntshalintshali at Nutting House outside Mbombela on July 17.
Ngwenya and the region’s acting treasurer, Phindile Nkuna, allegedly punched Ntshalintshali after they objected to information from the task team looking into the merger of the Ehlanzeni and Bohlabelo regions in line with the Municipal Demarcation Board’s boundaries.
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.
Raising doubts about the disciplinary committee’s decision is the participation of former state security minister Thomas Bongo, a known ally of Ngwenya.
Ntshalintshali, who is also Mpumalanga’s MEC for arts and culture, said that she raised her concerns about Bongo’s and Ngwenya’s relationship with committee member, Nathi Mthethwa.
“I told comrade Nathi that Bongo is Ngrayi’s friend. Bongo once represented Ngrayi in a provincial disciplinary matter,” she said.
Ntshalintshali said that Bongo initially asked to be excused from the NDC – because he was still recuperating from an illness – but was suddenly available.
“I’m disappointed,” said Ntshalintshali, “because this process was highly managed. The ANC cannot claim to fight gender-based violence while they cannot protect us who are inside the organisation.”
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Bongo did not answer his phone or respond to written questions. ANC spokesperson, Pule Mabe, also did not respond.
The disciplinary committee’s report will now be deliberated on by the national executive committee.
The national disciplinary committee acquitted Ngwenya on the grounds that the ANC failed “to prove on a balance of probabilities that he assaulted Ntshalintshali”.
A police officer assigned to protect Ntshalintshali, the committee said, did not say what happened after Ngwenya had passed him during the scuffle.
“All he had to do, in the view of the NDC, was to turn around and he would have been best placed to tell the NDC whether comrade Ngwenya attacked or punched the acting provincial secretary or had any physical contact with her,” reads the NDC report.
“In view of the diametrically opposed versions presented by the ANC and comrade Ngwenya and in the absence of evidence by Captain Khoza [the police officer] to corroborate the version of the acting provincial secretary, the NDC finds that the ANC has not proved on a balance of probabilities that comrade Ngwenya assaulted the acting provincial secretary. He is found not guilty and acquitted.”
Nkuna was found guilty of assault and the disciplinary committee rejected her claims that Ntshalintshali provoked her.
It directed Nkuna to personally apologise to Ntshalintshali and the ANC.
Ntshalintshali said that she was now relying on the courts for justice after she laid criminal assault charges against Ngwenya and Nkuna.
“I’ll take the fight to their doorstep and it’s going to be rough,” she said.
Underlying tensions, need for leadership training
The NDC has recommended that provincial and regional ANC leaders be sent to the OR Tambo Political School of Leadership to expand their political understanding and be referred for anger management.
“The NDC wishes to bring to the attention of the secretary-general’s office the lack of cohesion among the leaders and serious underlying tensions in the province which detract from the unity project of the organisation. The NDC has noted that inter-personal relations are so low that comrades did not even speak to each other at the disciplinary hearing. Furthermore, the anger of the comrades was palpable,” it said.
Boost for premier’s campaign
Ngwenya’s acquittal has thrown the cat among the pigeons as those in rival factions were hoping that he would be sanctioned and kept out of ANC work.
His clasp on Ehlanzeni region, which is the biggest in the province, and his close ties with Deputy President David Mabuza, have made him one of the most valuable politicians – a kingmaker.
Ngwenya’s freedom to do ANC work again will boost Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane’s campaign to be ANC provincial chairperson on December 6.
Ngwenya is in the premier’s corner.
Their first task now is to wrestle for control of the new and bigger Ehlanzeni region following the amalgamation.
The regional conference will take place on November 23, and it is unclear if Ngwenya will contest it or if his faction will field current Bohlabelo chairperson, Gillion Mashego.
“If Ngwenya does not contest, he is likely to campaign to be Mpumalanga ANC treasurer.”
The faction that takes control of this region will effectively be in pole position to win the provincial conference.
Factions are coming together and it now looks like Mtshweni-Tsipane will be challenging acting chairperson, Mandla Ndlovu.
Ndlovu, according to sources, is now going to work with Peter Nyoni, who has been campaigning to be provincial chairperson.
Nyoni will settle for the position of secretary.