Former Mpumalanga MEC wins R120K case against Nhleko

2016-09-18 06:00
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Meshack Malinga, a former Cabinet member in Mpumalanga, has won a R120 000 lawsuit against Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko for wrongful arrest, after he tried in vain to thwart the rigging of a provincial ANC conference in 2012.

In her judgment this week, acting Pretoria High Court Judge Sophie Kekana said: “It is not disputed that [arresting officer] Constable Phala had not satisfied himself of what documents of the ANC were stolen by the plaintiff. I am convinced that the police officer acted unlawfully and did not exercise his discretion reasonably.”

She said Phala could not explain why he arrested Malinga, and ordered that Nhleko pay Malinga R120 000 as well as the legal costs.

Malinga expressed satisfaction with the ruling, but was quick to add that he spent more than R150 000 in legal costs fighting the case.

The matter started when Malinga, a member of the provincial legislature, went to buy food on March 6 2012 in Middelburg, where he happened upon branch secretary Gift Sebeloane. The latter was in possession of ANC candidate nomination forms. Thinking the documents were part of an elaborate plan to rig the elections in the ANC provincial chairmanship race, Malinga confiscated them. He took the documents to the ANC’s parliamentary constituency office.

Emalahleni Mayor Lindiwe Ntshalintshali and MP Thomas Bongo arrived to demand the forms. When Malinga refused to hand them over, other ANC members allegedly assaulted him.

Police were called after Ntshalintshali consulted Premier David Mabuza, who advised her to lay criminal charges against Malinga, according to court papers. Malinga was handcuffed, taken to a police station and charged without proper procedure.

Nomination forms were the responsibility of specific regional or provincial executive committee (PEC) members, tasked to facilitate branch nomination meetings of candidates for the ANC provincial elective conference. They would then be sealed and returned to the provincial office.

At the time of Malinga’s arrest, there were widespread allegations that among Mabuza’s camp were foot soldiers manipulating the nomination processes to exclude dissenters wanting to choose different candidates for the provincial leadership ahead of the provincial elective conference. There were also allegations that signatures of branch members were being forged on the forms to ensure that preferred candidates were deemed “properly nominated and supported” to stand for positions – even though a meeting had not, in fact, taken place.

Many Mpumalanga branches lodged disputes with the provincial ANC office and Luthuli House before the 2012 conference, which Mabuza won without contestation. This because two of his challengers – former deputy chairperson Charles Makola and former treasurer Clifford Mkasi – withdrew at the last minute, claiming to have received death threats. Makola was suspended from his job as Nkangala district municipal manager for his anti-Mabuza stance, but later won a case of unfair dismissal.

The late Mpumalanga ANC Youth League chairperson, Kgotso Motloung, was also fired from his post as Gert Sibande District Municipality mayor at that time. The league, along with the SA Communist Party and trade union Cosatu, were supporting a campaign to topple Mabuza.

Judge Kekana found that the police acted unlawfully. “It was not disputed that the public violence was politically motivated. The complainant [Ntshalintshali] and the plaintiff [Malinga] were senior members of the ANC who were at variance as to who was entitled to be in possession of the branch nomination forms.”

Malinga wants “the ANC to offer me a sincere, public apology ... That is fair.” However, ANC provincial secretary Mandla Ndlovu said: “We are not going to apologise.”

Nhleko’s spokesperson, Musa Zondi, did not respond to written questions relating to how much the minister was liable to pay and whether disciplinary action would be taken against Phala.

Malinga is a former agriculture MEC and ANC Nkangala regional chair. He lost both posts in 2011 when Mabuza reshuffled his Cabinet and the ANC’s PEC disbanded his region’s executive committee.

Malinga became an ordinary legislature member and, after the 2014 elections, was left out because the Mabuza faction excluded him from the provincial and national lists. He is now a farmer.

Read more on:    nkosinathi nhleko  |  middelburg

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