Mbombela mayor Lassy Chiwayo booked himself into a mental hospital for treatment of stress this week – two weeks after he and Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza nearly came to blows at an ANC meeting.
Rumours that Chiwayo had suffered a mental breakdown, which he has denied, have been all the talk in Nelspruit this week.
“Just fire any question and determine if I’m mad,” he told City Press.
The bust-up between Chiwayo and Mabuza took place at the ANC’s provincial head office in Nelspruit.
The meeting was between Chiwayo, a provincial executive committee member, Mabuza, provincial ANC deputy chairperson Charles Makola, provincial secretary Lucky Ndinisa and deputy provincial secretary Snana Dlamini.
Chiwayo had apparently called the meeting to address his concerns about corruption and political assassinations in Mpumalanga and the state of the ANC in the province.
An ANC source said Chiwayo had to be restrained by Makola when he charged at Mabuza, grabbing him by his clothing.
“Makola separated them and talked some sense into Chiwayo’s head,” said the source. “DD (Mabuza) sat quietly while Chiwayo went on a tirade, even questioning DD’s struggle credentials and not being given feedback about his performance as mayor,” he said.
On Friday Chiwayo confirmed that the meeting had taken place and that “someone (Mabuza) had to be told where to get off”.
“I was direct with him about his role in the province – the corruption and tenderpreneur Godfathers he has created. I also told him he had set me up by approaching me to leave my business ventures in Johannesburg and come here to be mayor so he could destroy me.”
Chiwayo said Mabuza was a “controversial and enigmatic character” who had divided the ANC.
Mabuza’s spokesperson, Ronald Lamola, and provincial ANC spokesperson Paul Mbenyane declined to comment on the meeting.
Lamola referred questions to the ANC, while Mbenyane would only say: “I cannot confirm or deny if this happened. I did not sit in on the meeting and will know about it only if the matter is reported to the provincial executive committee.”
Another ANC source said the inaction of the party’s national executive committee on the allegations of corruption and political killings was taking its toll on Chiwayo.
“He is so frustrated because no one is prepared to listen or do something about all that is happening in this province. Most of us are throwing in the towel now,” he said.
This week political figures started rumours that Chiwayo had gone crazy and been admitted to a mental institution in Pretoria.
Chiwayo confirmed he had been to a mental facility for a check-up.
“Yes, I’ve consulted at a mental facility and I’m not ashamed of it. Pressure mounted so I had to take some time off.
Since I arrived in Mbombela, I have had stress-related conditions four times,” he said.
A special provincial executive committee meeting on Thursday nearly turned ugly when Ndinisa apologised for Chiwayo’s absence from the meeting by saying he was “committed somewhere”.
Provincial executive committee member Sabelo Shabangu allegedly shot Ndinisa down for joking about Chiwayo’s plight and suggested that the party should instead offer Chiwayo assistance.