Home of Port St Johns mayor torched, ANC accuses police of ignoring threats to her life

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Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo
Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo
  • The ANC in the Eastern Cape described the torching of the home of the mayor of Port St Johns as "thuggery".
  • Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo and her family were not at home when the fire gutted the house.
  • Zolile Williams said the incident was the result of some people being uncomfortable with women as leaders.

The ANC in the Eastern Cape accused the police of ignoring reports of threats to the life of the mayor of Port St Johns, whose house was torched in an arson attack.  

The mayor, Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo, told News24 that the fire, which gutted her home on Tuesday night, happened after a disgruntled group ordered her to overlook shortlisted candidates for vacant senior management positions in the municipality.

She was warned to consider local candidates or step down. 

She and her family were not at home at the time of the fire.   

The council is in the process of filling positions for municipal manager, engineering manager and cooperative services manager. 

READ Why ANC councillors in an Eastern Cape municipality are living in fear

Mlombile-Cingo said she and two other councillors had received death threats prior to her home being engulfed in flames. 

The provincial secretary of the Eastern Cape ANC, Lulama Ngcukayithobi, said the party was disappointed by what ensued, considering the police were "notified a long time ago".

Knowing that councillors are targets of rogue elements, no close monitoring is being made and no one has been arrested for the threats to the life of the mayor of Port St Johns and other people working with [her].

"We have been observing developments in Port St Johns with keen interest. What is happening is thuggery and not accepted in any democratic state."

Mlombile-Cingo said she was traumatised.

"I have lost track of everything because I am busy dealing with this disturbing incident," she told News24 on Thursday while giving her statement at the police station.

READ Eastern Cape man killed by falling electricity post during service delivery protest

She declined to answer detailed questions, saying it could jeopardise the ongoing investigation. 

According to Mlombile-Cingo:

The death threats started in the past weeks when we had a meeting. Two councillors were threatened and, later, me. The issue here, among many, is on the recruitment of senior managers. They demand that only people from Port St Johns be employed. The matter has been reported to the MEC for Cogta.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Warrant Officer Majola Nkohli denied the police had knowledge of threats made against the mayor and two councillors. 

"We have since increased police visibility in the area, and Public Order Policing members are currently deployed to monitor the situation," said Nkohli.  

A case of malicious damage to property was opened following the fire.

"We would like to advise people who are receiving threats to immediately report such to the police," he added.

Port St Johns, situated on the east coast, is one of the poorest towns in South Africa, despite being a popular tourist destination. 

READ More than 300 councillors killed: Ramaphosa concerned about past few years' 'deeply disturbing' attacks

Pheello Oliphant, the spokesperson for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Zolile Williams, said the mayor had informed Williams about the demand made by a group - called "The Forum" - and their demand for the municipality not to proceed with appointments if the candidates did not come from Port St Johns.

Oliphant said the group demanded that supply chain management must appoint local service providers, to the total disregard of supply chain regulations.

Williams said no amount of anger justified the torching of Mlombile-Cingo's house.

Williams said:

The undertones of these senseless actions are about the clear denigration of the leadership of a woman, which must be frowned at by all in the community. Mlombile-Cingo remains one of the committed mayors, who stands and falls representing the interests of the people of Port St Johns.

Williams said he was planning to visit the area next week to engage with all the stakeholders, to try and find an amicable solution to the problems.

Attempts to reach "The Forum" was unsuccessful.

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