Slain Free State official’s relatives in court

The brother and sister of the wife of slain Free State official Noby Ngombane appeared in the Bloemfontein District Court on Thursday in connection with his murder.

Ngombane, who was 38 when he was gunned down at his Hillsboro home on March 22, was the head of the Free State government’s policy-monitoring and evaluation unit in Premier Beatrice Marshoff’s office.

Bongani Mlambo (28) and his sister, Sephumle Booi (23), were arrested earlier and were trying to apply for bail, a South African Press Association reporter on the scene said.

The state is applying for a remand order so that they can be held for seven days without bail, to enable the arrest of a third person, but the defence wants to proceed immediately and apply for bail.

Mlambo faces a charge of murder and Booi faces a charge of accessory after the fact.

Ngombane’s widow, Nokwanda, was believed to be on her way to the packed court from Johannesburg.

Police had included politics as a motive in their investigation, but now exclude it.

”I can tell you it is not political,” police spokesperson Superintendent Annelie Wrensch said.

At Ngombane’s funeral, Nokwanda – who was a personal assistant in Marshoff’s office — said: ”We [are] talking about a political assassination and that is what it is.

”Let us not beat around the bush when it is said that this murder is a mystery whose motives are unclear.”

Ngombane 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.

A distraught Marshoff had to be treated by paramedics at his funeral.

At the time of his death, he had been embroiled in a number of departmental disagreements.

A KPMG audit report noted a breakdown in the relationship between Ngombane and previous provincial 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 a disagreement on my role as department [of tourism] head in terms of the Public Service Act and his powers as [provincial minister] of the department”.

Last year, Marshoff appointed Belot 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.

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 former premier Winky Direko and a special adviser to her predecessor, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri.

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.

Police had offered a R100 000 reward for information leading to an arrest. — Sapa

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Jenni Evans
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