Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane’s security has been beefed up following an intelligence tip-off that her life might be in danger.
Two knowledgeable sources in the provincial government told City Press this week that a security risk assessment prompted Police Minister Bheki Cele to order that Mtshweni-Tsipane be provided with additional security.
Mtshweni-Tsipane’s spokesperson, Sibongile Mkani-Mpolweni, declined to comment and referred questions to the police.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson Colonel Donald Mdluli also declined to comment, saying: “Unfortunately, the police can’t discuss security matters regarding dignitaries.”
The motive for threatening Mtshweni-Tsipane’s life is unclear, but, according to sources, it must be associated with the taut political climate in the province, which has been largely caused by the stalemate concerning the sitting of the elective conference over the past two years since former provincial ANC chairperson David Mabuza was elected deputy president.
Sources indicate that her position as premier and her candidacy to stand as ANC provincial chairperson have triggered plotting by comrades she considered to be on her side in her own faction. As a result, her campaign has suffered and has lost momentum.
“The reason she’s been quiet about her availability to stand is the uncertainty in her own faction because of the disloyalty and backstabbing. There are individuals there who aren’t comfortable with her being the premier now and also being a leader of the ANC in the future,” said an individual within Mtshweni-Tsipane’s faction.
Another source said that her strained relationship with Mabuza had left her campaign in a cloud of uncertainty.
The deputy president initially supported her candidacy, but differences that arose between them were so serious that they are allegedly no longer communicating with each other.
Mabuza’s close allies, including Ehlanzeni region deputy convenor Ngrayi Ngwenya, were Mtshweni-Tsipane’s chief lobbyists, but have lately remained quiet about their support for her.
“It’s very tricky for us when they’re not getting along because we have to choose between her and the deputy president. The campaign has suffered and we’re helpless in this situation, as we can’t do anything,” the source said.
On the other hand, Mtshweni-Tsipane has been found to be playing by the book in government matters, thereby frustrating any attempts to accuse her of corruption. Her decision to investigate Covid-19 procurement and other corruption issues has further isolated her from bureaucrats who are political activists in the ANC.
A few months ago, rumours spread that her security had been infiltrated and that secret meetings were being held to discuss ways to topple her.
Last March, Mtshweni-Tsipane fell ill and had to be airlifted to 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria for treatment. It was suspected that she had been poisoned.
Mpumalanga police subsequently launched an investigation into members of the premier’s private secretariat and support staff.
At that time, City Press saw a message from the police’s VIP unit that was forwarded to the support staff, which read: “Please be advised that, owing to a pressing development, SAPS is requesting a meeting with all members of the private secretariat unit, as follows…”
A source said: “They’ve realised that poisoning failed, as she’s been extra-careful since that incident and this time they want to assassinate her [by other means].”
The threats to her life emerge as the people of Mpumalanga are commemorating unresolved political assassinations.
This month marks 12 years since City of Mbombela speaker Jimmy Mohlala was assassinated while exposing tender corruption related to the R1.2 billion Mbombela Stadium. Mohlala was shot at his house in KaNyamazane.
It has been 11 years since former Mpumalanga department of culture, sport and recreation spokesperson Sammy Mpatlanyane was fatally shot at his house in Stonehenge, Mbombela.
At the time of his death, Mpatlanyane had refused to sign off a payment of R34 million to a service provider, and had complained that his signature was forged while he was on a three-month sabbatical in Germany.