ANC Mpumalanga strongman Ngrayi Ngwenya has been reinstated by the party after its national disciplinary committee cleared him on charges of assaulting acting provincial secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali earlier this year.
Ngwenya — who is currently out on bail for assaulting another female ANC member in the province — had been suspended along with Ehlanzeni treasurer Pinky Nkuna, for allegedly punching Ntshalintshali.
The ruling comes in the same week as the party’s national executive committee (NEC) announced new initiatives to combat gender-based violence within it ranks and in society at large.
Ngwenya and Nkuna were among a group of ANC leaders from the Ehlanzeni and Bohlabela regions who had stormed a meeting of the provincial working committee in July called to discuss disbanding the regions. It is there that Ngwenya and Nkuna allegedly assaulted Ntshalintshali.
The pair are among the backers of Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane’s bid to become ANC provincial chair with the endorsement of former chair and premier, the now deputy president David Mabuza.
They were charged with assault and with disrupting ANC activities by the party NEC in August and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Monday, the national disciplinary committee found that the ANC had failed to prove on a balance of probabilities that Ngwenya had assaulted Ntshalintshali.
It found that Nkuna had assaulted Ntshalintshali by pushing her with an open hand.
It cleared both Ngwenya and Nkuna of the charge of disrupting the ANC meeting and of a secondary charge of inciting others to do so.
In its ruling, the committee found that the versions of Ngwenya, Ntshalintshali and other witnesses as to what happened during the assault varied.
Evidence from ANC member Mafika Mthethwa, who had backed Ntshalintshali’s version of events was disregarded and expunged from the record of the hearing as he had contradicted himself when questioned as to whether he knew Nkuna. The committee also found that there were material differences between the versions of Ntshalintshali and her bodyguard, who was in the hall when she was attacked, as to the role of Ngwenya.
The committee accepted Ngwenya’s version of events; that he had not been able to get to Ntshalintshali because of a stack of chairs between them.
The disciplinary committee found Nkuna guilty of assault and reprimanded her, ruling that she apologise to Ntshalintshali and to the ANC within seven days. However, it ruled that the recommendation that she be suspended for two years was “inappropriate in the circumstances” as Nkuna was a first offender who was young and who, with guidance, “could be groomed for leadership in the province”.
The reinstatement of Ngwenya is a boost to the campaign by Mtsweni-Tsipane to be elected as ANC Mpumalanga chairperson at its provincial conference, scheduled to be held later this year.
Ngwenya is one of her key lobbyists and central to her consolidating support ahead of other contenders, including acting chairperson Mandla Ndlovu.
Next week, Ngwenya will appear in the Tonga magistrate’s court on grievous bodily harm charges, stemming from the stabbing of ANC member Faith Makumo at a party meeting in KwaMhlushwa in June last year.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe undertook to comment on the decision, but had not done so at the time of publishing.