/ 31 July 2014

Embattled Hlongwa in leadership tussle

Brian Hlongwa was health MEC when the proceeds of corruption are said to have benefited the ANC.
Brian Hlongwa was health MEC when the proceeds of corruption are said to have benefited the ANC.

A few months ago, Brian Hlongwa, the now embattled ANC chief whip in Gauteng, looked likely to replace new premier David Makhura as ANC provincial secretary.

But the former health MEC’s political career is now in the balance following damning allegations that implicate him in tender fraud amounting to well over R1-billion. He allegedly received R2.6-million from 3P Consulting and Regiments Capital. Both companies were awarded multimillion-rand contracts by his former department.

Other benefits he allegedly received include a spa treatment, payments for renovations to his home and a trip to Cuba. He has denied any wrongdoing and believes he will be cleared of all allegations against him.

Although some ANC branches in Gauteng have nominated him for the influential position of party secretary in the province, the Mail & Guardian understands that senior leaders of the tripartite alliance have advised him not to accept nomination, as this would send a message to the public that the party is not serious about fighting corruption.

The ANC provincial conference will be held in Johannesburg from September 14 to 17.

Hlongwa versus Papo
ANC sources close to Hlongwa said he is prepared to accept the nomination, which will pit him against his predecessor in the provincial health department, Hope Papo.

Approached for comment on Wednesday, Hlongwa said: “I am locked in meetings. However, I cannot comment on internal party matters. Branches of the ANC will decide after due processes.”

ANC provincial spokesperson Dumisa Ntuli said the party will decide on Hlongwa’s future after an investigation by its integrity committee.

“The integrity committee is best placed to establish if Brian Hlongwa has conducted himself in a manner that has put the organisation into disrepute. We believe he must be given a chance to tell his side of the story and the media should not judge him as such,” Ntuli said. 

Both Hlongwa and Papo are seen as close allies of the Gauteng chairperson and former arts and culture minister, Paul Mashatile, who was dropped from President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet after the elections in May. Mashatile backed former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe for the position of ANC president in Mangaung in 2012.

Two power centres
Now, some in the alliance want Mashatile out as ANC chairperson. Led by the South African Communist Party (SACP) in Gauteng, they have argued that his re-election would entrench the party’s two centres of power, which has been blamed for the party’s 10% drop in support in the recent elections.

The SACP will hold a provincial working committee meeting this weekend at which it is expected to endorse Makhura as the provincial chairperson.

The ANC Youth League task team in Gauteng, led by SACP spokesperson Alex Mohubetswane, also wants Makhura as provincial chair, to have a “single centre of power”.

An alliance leader in Gauteng said the ANC needs to come up with strong leadership to rescue the party from further decline. “We can’t just talk about leadership as a matter of conference. We need to look beyond that. The last five years gave us 53%. This was because of two centres of power. Are we going back to 2009?” the alliance leader said.

An ANC provincial executive committee member, Nkenke Kekana, said that the branches will nominate whomever they wish to be leaders. “It is that leadership that would be tasked with the responsibility to govern the province,” he said.