Smuts Ngonyama’s wife has been accused of beating her former domestic worker with a broomstick at the couple’s diplomatic residence in Tokyo.
The former domestic worker of South Africa’s ambassador to Japan, Smuts Ngonyama, has come forward with shock allegations of a vicious assault with a broomstick by the ambassador’s wife, as well as subsequent attempts to sweep the incident under the carpet.
According to Tandiswa Tokwe, Ngonyama’s wife, Nokwazi, allegedly assaulted her with a broomstick on 14 July while she was working for the couple in the Pretoria ambassador’s official diplomatic residence in Tokyo.
Nokwazi is a former director of the Department of Social Development and an investor.
Domestic worker claims broomstick assault by ambassador’s wife
The 52-year-old Tokwe’s attorney, Pumelele Hole, told Daily Maverick that the domestic worker, who worked at the Ngonyama residence since 2019, claims she was beaten three times on her thighs and arms with a broomstick by Nokwazi.
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Tokwe received medical treatment at a clinic in Tokyo, where she was also diagnosed with insomnia due to “traumatic external injuries to her thighs, forearms and elbows”.
After the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Director-General Zane Dangor got word of the incident, Ngonyama wrote to the director-general that his wife “apologised profusely” to Tokwe, who accepted the apology.
In his letter to Dangor, the ambassador claimed the “physically violent incident involving my wife and the domestic assistant” was a “sequel to an attitude that for some time was perceived as a show of disrespect on the part of the concerned assistant”.
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Single mother’s struggle to get payout
Tokwe’s sister Noluthando Snobolo told Daily Maverick that after the incident, Nokwazi allegedly came into the ironing room to return Tokwe’s cellphone, which she had confiscated.
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“She came back the second time with a plank in her hand, stood by the door, left after some time without saying a word. And she placed this plank on top of the refrigerator.”
A terrified Tokwe resigned on 27 July and has since returned to East London where the unemployed single mother has apparently been struggling to make ends meet while waiting for a payout from Ngonyama for the rest of her contract period.
Domestic worker refuses to sign non-disclosure agreement
International relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela told the Daily Maverick that Lungisani Ntombela, an officer with the resources department, had flown to Tokyo to investigate the matter.
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According to Hole, Ntombela drafted a settlement agreement which Ngonyama signed on 30 August.
In the document, Ngonyama agreed to pay Tokwe R195,231 for the five months of her outstanding salary until her contract expired at the end of December.
The settlement offer, however, stipulates that Tokwe must undertake to not to press charges against the ambassador’s wife and sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Hole said Tokwe has refused agree to these conditions.
He told Rapport that Ngonyama contacted Tokwe during the past two weeks, urging her to sign the agreement. She allegedly also received a letter from the department encouraging her to do so.
“It’s disappointing that Smuts tried to use Tandiswa’s desperate financial position against her and used state resources to relieve himself and his wife of any responsibility and possible civil action,” Hole was quoted as saying.
Who is Smuts Ngonyama?
- Ngonyama was South Africa’s ambassador to Spain before he was appointed to his current post in Japan.
- Before that, he was head of the presidency and the spokesperson for the African National Congress (ANC), but left the party after then president Thabo Mbeki was ousted in 2008.
- Ngonyama then joined the Congress of the People (COPE), from which he resigned in 2014.
- The Citizen previously reported that Ngonyama came under scrutiny in 2004 for allegedly benefitting from a so-called black empowerment deal spinning off part of Telkom into a consortium of former ANC officials.