The frosty relationship between the two most powerful women leaders in Mpumalanga has, according to those close to them, reached its peak.
The rivalry among different factions in the ANC has become so bad that not a single Cabinet meeting has taken place, apparently because the acting secretary of the ANC in the province, Lindiwe Ntshalintshali, and its premier, Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane, can’t stand each other.
Ntshalintshali, who also serves as culture, sports and recreation MEC, has been under a deluge of criticism lately from Mtshweni-Tsipane’s supporters and the party’s leadership in the Ehlanzeni region.
A few weeks ago, Ntshalintshali reported regional heavyweight Ngrayi Ngwenya and acting Ehlanzeni acting treasurer Phindile Nkuna to the police and Luthuli House for allegedly punching her at Nutting House in Mbombela.
Ngwenya has been leading a campaign for Mtshweni-Tsipane to be elected as the next ANC provincial chairperson.
Ntshalintshali had been carrying out the provincial executive committee’s (PEC) mandate to disband the Ehlanzeni and Bohlabelo regions because they existed in contravention of the ANC’s constitution which does not allow two regions within one municipal district.
Angry members stormed the venue complaining about names that were to be included in the regional task team (RTT) that had been already endorsed by the provincial working committee. It seems that these members wanted to impose other names in disregard of gender parity, geographical spread and unity as per the PEC’s guidelines.
Ngwenya and Nkuna allegedly went for Ntshalintshali and unleashed punches. Two police officers were injured during the skirmish. Luthuli House has since suspended the two regional leaders’ membership pending a disciplinary process, and Ntshalintshali and the police officers have also laid criminal charges.
Ngwenya hails from the Nkomazi sub-region, where he’s treated as a political demigod due to his influence. Ntshalintshali’s problem lies exactly here, and it is where her latest clash with Mtshweni-Tsipane is premised.
As culture, sports and recreation MEC, Ntshalintshali is responsible for coordinating provincial events. Mtshweni wanted the provincial Women’s Month celebration to take place in Nkomazi, but Ntshalintshali was having none of that after receiving a warning from the State Security Agency about her security since the Nutting House violence.
A WhatsApp group of Nkomazi comrades known as “ANC Nkmz battle of ideas” has been threatening to hang Ntshalintshali out to dry.
“It is true comrade,” reads one of the messages, “sokhohliwe kutsi ubanjisiwe (she has forgotten that she’s acting). We must be strong and united like never before because all this (sic) problems are caused by the upcoming PGC (provincial general council) which seems to have a lot of contestants. So, ours is to defend the legacy of our DP (deputy president) DD (David Dabede Mabuza).”
Another message says: “We voted her in the list conference yet she thanks us with shit!! She’s like a wolf in a sheep’s skin.”
One message has a picture of two guns and warns that “if it takes us to use this, we can.”
A source close to Ntshalintshali said that she had written to Mtshweni-Tsipane about her concerns but the premier poured cold water over them.
“Why is the premier disregarding a warning from intelligence? Ngwenya might not be there, but he will mobilise … she’s being thrown into the lion’s den,” he said.
Ntshalintshali confirmed to City Press that she had suggested to Mtshweni-Tsipane that the event be taken to another venue, but would not be drawn into revealing details.
The premier’s spokesperson, Sibongile Mkani-Mpolweni, however said that Mtshweni-Tsipane was awaiting a threats and assessment report from the state security agency.
“We can confirm receipt of a letter written by the MEC stating alleged threats in Nkomazi. This was subsequently followed by a discussion between the premier and the MEC. The premier undertook to contact Intelligence to conduct a threats and risk assessment and is awaiting a report,” Mkani-Mpolweni said.
She said that a cabinet meeting would take place in due course, and there had been five strategic meetings both at national and provincial levels that serve as a prelude to the first cabinet meeting. Mtshweni-Tsipane appointed her cabinet in May.
“The premier is not aware of any sour or frosty relationship between herself and the MEC, she only learnt of such from the media. She enjoys a cordial and professional relationship with members of her cabinet and she has an open door policy, be it MECs and or staff in general,” Mkani-Mpolweni said.
About Mtshweni-Tsipane’s ambitions to lead the ANC, Mkani-Mpolweni said it was going to be the ANC’s branches’ decision to elect her or not.