/ 16 January 2008

Ngonyama gets ready to ‘move on with life’

The African National Congress’s (ANC) outgoing head of the Presidency and communications, Smuts Ngonyama, said on Wednesday he would continue doing work for the party, but in a lower profile.

”It’s more or less 10 years that I have been in this role and I accept that I have to move on with life and look at other challenges,” he told the South African Press Association.

At the party’s volatile 52nd national conference, Ngonyama failed to secure a place on the national executive committee (NEC) and so has to make way for a candidate from that list.

”At the present moment I don’t have any clear plans except that I will make my contribution within the ANC and contribute in the community,” he said.

Asked whether he will pursue business interests in the communications field, he laughed and said: ”I’m not sure yet … I’m still looking at whatever comes.”

Ngonyama had not left the post yet as there was still a handover period to be completed and the incoming head of Presidency would still be decided on.

In terms of ANC structure, the head of the Presidency and the head of communications were based in the party president’s office.

This has been changed and now the head of communications would fall under the office of the secretary general.

Neither a new head of Presidency nor a new head of communications had been appointed yet, Party spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said.

However, Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan would head the party’s sub-committee on communications and drafting, which Ngonyama had also headed.

This position was for drawing up communications policy and strategy.

The separate full-time task of spokesperson, who dealt with day-to-day communications, still had to be announced.

Rikhotso paid tribute to Ngonyama, saying: ”Obviously he served the movement very well, with diligence, both as head of Presidency, head of communications [and] national spokesperson of the ANC.

”He is a very hardworking gentleman, a very accessible man, very humble. Even if I had a communications crisis at 2am he was somebody I could access in terms of leadership.”

The new NEC has been widely interpreted as a rejection of ANC supporters sympathetic to previous party president Thabo Mbeki in a leadership battle between himself and Jacob Zuma.

Asked for insight into why Ngonyama had not been re-elected, Rikhotso said: ”That decision was taken by the delegates at the conference. The delegates exercised their democratic right.” — Sapa