Delisile Ngwenya, one of two new EFF spokespersons, is proud of how the red berets conducted themselves in Parliament last week, despite fierce criticism of their disruptive behaviour.
EFF members walked out of Parliament after delaying President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address by almost two hours.
They were protesting the presence of former president FW De Klerk as well as the president’s refusal to fire Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
But Ngwenya believes that they gained new respect from the public as a result of their conduct.
“The EFF has been successful. We went in there with a plan which was implemented effectively and we left the House with a very strong warning to Ramaphosa that if he continues to treat the people of South Africa the way he does, then he gives us no choice [but to act].”
Ngwenya and Vuyani Pambo replaced former spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlovu early this month.
She said growing up in Soweto, her family were devoted supporters of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
But in 2014, she switched sides, joining the radical EFF.
This transition was not surprising as “the PAC’s stance, particularly on the land issue” had taught her “of our need to fight for land”.
Seven years on, Ngwenya has no regrets.
“I remember it very well [the day I joined the EFF], it was in September 2014 and the party had just been formed. I had followed its launch with great interest. I joined just before the branch elections took place and I was appointed branch secretary in Mohlakeng [on the West Rand],” said the outspoken Ngwenya.
Three months later, she was elected into the party’s highest decision-making body – the central command – at the party’s first national people’s assembly.
She told City Press that what drew her to the red berets were its seven founding pillars, especially the party’s stance on land expropriation.
Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters at the State of the Nation Address on February 13, 2020 in Cape Town. (Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)
“When the EFF was established, I read their manifesto and what drew me to them was their seven pillars. I could see that they were acting on one of the PAC’s pillars – which was getting the land back.”
Ngwenya said she was later redeployed as the acting secretary in the North West, when the provincial secretary Papiki Babuile was arrested for murder.
He was later acquitted.
“I joined Parliament in October 26 2016 and in 2017 I served as a member of the national disciplinary committee in the party.
“In 2018 I became chairperson of the committee, a position I still hold. At the strategic planning meeting in Centurion early this month I was elected member of the war council and now I am the national spokesperson.”
The first woman spokesperson said her immediate priority was maintaining “the high standards” set by their predecessor Ndlozi as well as continuing to advocate for gender equality.
Ngwenya was convinced that with time she would be able to carve her own individual path which she hoped would benefit the office.
“For now, I need to be settled and know what is going on in the office,” she said.
Ngwenya rose to prominence in 2018 when she challenged Ramaphosa’s speech in Parliament, calling him out for not providing any tangible solutions to the challenges of rising gender inequality.
Even if they had beaten us up [in Parliament], it wouldn’t have deterred us ... with De Klerk as well, I am very happy with how we executed that one
“The president never spoke about the gross economic inequality between men and women in this country. He never spoke about the deep-rooted patriarchy which breeds toxic notions of masculinity leading to unmitigated violence against women in this country. I am here to speak about those women and girls who have, for a very long time, been forced to keep silent about their struggles just to breath.”
Ngwenya’s stance on women politics has found resonance in her own party with her now actively spearheading the formation of the EFF’s women’s command.
Ngwenya, a widow and family-oriented mother of one, loves education.
She studied through Unisa and graduated with a human resource degree.
She has also worked extensively in the private sector for companies including insurance giants Liberty life, Fedlife and Hollard as an human resources manager.
She also worked for the City of Johannesburg as a liaison officer in the department of arts and culture.
Ngwenya said the EFF would not rest until Ramaphosa fired Gordhan, whom the party accuses of mismanaging state-owned enterprises.
“From now on we will start treating him [Ramaphosa] the way we treated Jacob Zuma and we made it clear with the issue of Gordhan that we do not want him as the public enterprises minister and we will never give up until he leaves that office.
“Even if they had beaten us up [in Parliament], it wouldn’t have deterred us ... with De Klerk as well, I am very happy with how we executed that one.
“I think we have also triggered something in the conscience of black people who might have missed what he said [about apartheid]. People are now going back to that video to hear what he said.”