Mpumalanga cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Mandla Msibi, will not act against ANC heavyweight, Ngrayi Ngwenya, until he is provided with concrete evidence that the politician kept and distributed government food parcels from his house.
The roar around the former ANC Ehlanzeni regional chairperson and current regional task team deputy convener follows the circulation of a video clip showing young men loading food parcels into bakkies from his house in Schoemansdal near Malelane.
Food parcels from the department of social development, which are being distributed to help poor families through the SA State Security Agency (Sassa) during the national lockdown, have become a hot potato after numerous complaints that ANC councillors and legislature members were using them for political point-scoring.
Other than complaints from opposition parties, the ANC’s own members in Mpumalanga are divided along factional lines with accusation flying about who is benefitting from the Covid-19 food relief.
Last week, Msibi announced that the Covid-19 Provincial Command Council had resolved that 430 community development workers would assist the department of social development and Sassa to identify needy families. This would help cut out interference by politicians who allegedly use the parcels for patronage. He warned that any violation of the decision would not be tolerated.
“This matter [about Ngwenya] was raised with me on Tuesday. I told the complainants that they must bring me evidence to show that the parcels were from Sassa or a government department. I will act once that evidence is produced,” Msibi said.
“During this disaster, many people are offering their help through politicians and that is fine. I also get food donations to distribute to needy families and I keep receipts as evidence that these were donated parcels,” he said.
Ngwenya confirmed that he had the food parcels but denied that they were from government.
“I bought these food parcels at Makro. I’m not corrupt. Even now I’m fetching more food parcels from prophet Shepherd Bushiri to distribute,” Ngwenya said.
Two weeks ago, Mpumalanga EFF chairperson Collen Sedibe, laid criminal charges against provincial legislator Jeanette Thabethe and Sassa acting regional manager Kedibone Mathebula after a truck allegedly delivered food parcels to Thabethe’s home in Tekwane South, outside Mbombela. The parcels were later allegedly distributed under the ANC’s banner.
Thabethe has denied receiving a truckload of food parcels. But Sedibe has accused ANC politicians of distributing food to their members or along factional lines. He said it was unfair to discriminate against other poor families based on their political affiliation even if those parcels were donated by businesspeople.
“That’s inhumane and society does not need leaders like that. All the businesspeople who are partisan to the governing party only in their donations must just pray that there will be no regime change because they will suffer the consequences,” he added.
Covid-19 budget secrecy
Meanwhile, the Mpumalanga government has refused to come out clean on allegations that it was paying inflated prices for Covid-19 relief items.
When asked about the prices government paid, provincial Treasury spokesperson Letshela Jonas said various departments bought items on their own.
However, the departments told City Press that they gave their lists to the Treasury to purchase.
Jonas said: “The departments did not have a specific budget set aside for Covid-19. However, with the issue of Covid-19 response strategy emerging towards the end of March, provincial departments use their 2019/2020 budgets to procure items in this regard.”
The departments of social development, agriculture and health did not respond to written questions.
But officials in these departments, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the provincial Treasury was responsible for procuring all coronavirus-related items.