Free State Premier Beatrice Marshoff said on Wednesday she was shocked by the murder of Noby Ngombane, a top official in her office.
”No one knows why it should happen to him,” Marshoff said through tears before breaking off the conversation, unable to continue.
Ngombane (38) was shot dead at his house in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night.
Police spokesperson Inspector Harry Nagel said a car pulled into the driveway of Ngombane’s house in Hillsboro at about 10pm. He went outside to investigate and the occupants of the vehicle opened fire on him, sending him running back into the house.
He collapsed in the kitchen and later died in the Hydromed hospital as a result of his wounds.
”A political motive for the murder was a possibility but we cannot confirm it,” Nagel said.
Ngombane was the head of the Free State government’s policy monitoring and evaluation unit in the premier’s office. He was also the premier and the provincial government’s spokesperson, as well as a close confidant of the premier and a former spokesperson of the African National Congress in the Free State.
The ANC in the province expressed shock at his death, saying he had served both the ANC and the South African Communist Party with ”distinction, great courage and an unswerving loyalty”.
It is confident that his murderers will be apprehended, and sent condolences to his family.
Since being appointed as head of the department of tourism, environmental and economic affairs in former premier Winky Direko’s government, Ngombane had been embroiled in controversy.
A KPMG audit report commissioned in 2003 by Ngombane, while he was still head of the department, noted a breakdown in the relationship between Ngombane and previous tourism minister, Sakhiwo Belot.
This was exposing the department to financial risk, and the report recommended that one or both of them be replaced. The main reasons for this appeared to be a ”lack of financial delegations”.
Ngombane told a committee on public spending ”we had an disagreement on my role as department head in terms of the Public Service Act and his powers as MEC [provincial minister] of the department”.
Last year, Marshoff appointed Belot as provincial minister for health.
Ngombane was moved to the Free State premier’s office to head the new policy unit, after renewed signs of conflict between him and the department’s new minister, Benny Malakoane.
Malakoane had reportedly written to Marshoff stating that Ngombane, then his head of department, was undermining his authority.
He was also worried about not being consulted by Ngombane on a decision to suspend four of the department’s five chief directors pending the outcome of an investigation into financial irregularities. Dodo Rantho, Khaitiso Khotle, Laetitia van Rensburg and Tembeka Mhlekwa were reinstated by a court order.
Rantho had previously been dismissed by Ngombane but was also later reinstated.
Ngombane was also reported to have had problems obtaining a National Intelligence Agency security clearance required for attending certain meetings.
During his career, he had been a political adviser to Direko and a special adviser to her predecessor, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri.
His wife, Nokwanda, works for Marshoff as a personal assistant.
He also coordinated an ANC leadership committee tasked with rebuilding its Free State structures and had been a programme officer for the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Sweden.
The Free State has recently experienced a spate of protests against what residents are calling poor service delivery, and three municipalities have been dissolved.
There was also discontent in the provincial government about a head of department reshuffle that led to two resignations and an unsuccessful court challenge by two others to keep their former posts.
Marshoff’s appointment as premier came as a surprise, as many had expected provincial ANC chairperson Ace Magashule to take the position.
The Democratic Alliance in the province said his death had ”no characteristics of a robbery” and President Thabo Mbeki must accept responsibility for the investigation, in the wake of recent power struggles.
The African Christian Democratic Party said: ”We trust that this incident will motivate the provincial government to really thrash the problem of crime, so that criminals will realise that they are not in charge of the country.” — Sapa