Fears that ANC elective conferences in Mpumalanga will be rigged have emerged after a regional leader and his associates were caught on camera distributing money at a party event in Nkomazi at the weekend.
The video clips of R50 and R20 notes being thrown into the crowd and of regional task team member Ngrayi Ngwenya encouraging members to jump and snatch a R100 note from his hand come as the province prepares to hold an elective conference in its eHlanzeni region.
A month earlier Ngwenya was cleared on charges of assaulting acting ANC provincial secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali at a meeting in June at which the decision to disband the eHlanzeni and Bohlabela regions was announced.
Ngwenya, an ally of former chairperson David Mabuza and a key campaigner for Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane’s bid for the ANC Mpumalanga chair, is a former chairperson of the eHlanzeni region, which was collapsed by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC).
eHlanzeni is due to hold its elective conference later this year, while the province will hold its elective conference in February. Mtsweni-Tsipane is understood to be favoured by Mabuza to replace him as chairperson, while acting Mpumalanga chairperson Mandla Ndlovu is backed by the faction allied with ANC secretary general Ace Magashule.
In the video Nkomazi businessman Zakhele Potted is seen distributing notes from a pile of bricks of money in the boot of a white Mercedes-Benz sedan. He is also seen onstage, with Ngwenya, throwing R50 and R20 notes into the audience.
Ngwenya is out on bail for allegedly stabbing an ANC member, Faith Makumo, at a rally in KwaMhlushwa last June.
Several ANC members from the province, who sent the clips to the Mail & Guardian and to the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters, claimed this week that the money was being handed out in a bid to swing the outcome of the regional conference in Ngwenya’s favour.
“We are clear that this is about buying the conference,” said one member, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. “This is what happened here all along. We thought that after the NEC intervened there would be a change, but there isn’t.
“Delegates were bought before the last provincial conference and before Nasrec [the ANC’s 2017 elective conference]. They are doing the same thing here. The ANC is supposed to be investigating where this money comes from, but nothing is being done.”
Another ANC member from Nkomazi said they feared the attempt to influence the outcome of the eHlanzeni conference would lead to the provincial conference being “stolen”.
“They want to load the REC [regional executive committee] so that they can force their way at the provincial conference. They are trying to buy delegates from Nkangala and Gert Sibande [regions] so that they can dictate the result of the provincial conference. This is what they did under Mabuza. Nothing has changed. It’s the same way of working,” he said. “Luthuli House is meant to deal with this problem. They have failed.”
Mpumalanga was plagued by claims of gatekeeping and buying delegates ahead of the ANC’s 2017 conference, at which Mabuza was elected deputy president.
An investigation by the M&G revealed the existence of cloned ANC branches and that dead members had “voted” at branch, regional and provincial meetings during the build-up to the provincial conference. The ANC dissolved and merged the parallel structures and instituted a membership audit, in the process of which the eHlanzeni and Bohlabela regions were dissolved.
Ngwenya did not answer calls from M&G but in a recording made at the weekend denied buying votes, saying the money was given to people who were not party delegates. He also condemned the handing out of money by Potted, who did not “understand” ANC culture.
Ndlovu said the ANC in the province “condemned” the incident and had “spoken to the comrades saying that they should avoid dishing out money”. He said they did not view the incident as an attempt to influence the outcome of the conference and that Ngwenya and Potted had been “excited” and had apologised for their actions.