Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day

The ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) in Gauteng has disagreed with its integrity commission on suspending embattled Qedani Mahlangu and Brian Hlongwa from their leadership posts or from structures in the party. 

Gauteng is a hotly contested terrain in the 2019 national election and the electorate in the province has arguably been the most unforgiving about graft and maladministration, culminating in a dramatic decline in the ANC's support in the province and the loss of two key metros, Johannesburg and Tshwane. 

Cleaning up the party as well as good governance is critical for the party in the province if it hopes to retain control of the party's economic heartland. Opposition parties are likely to use the ANC's stance on Mahlangu and Hlongwa to campaign against it. 

The Gauteng ANC said in a statement that the PEC agreed with the integrity commission's recommendation that the pair should not hold public office.

This led to the resignation of Hlongwa as chief whip in the legislature on Tuesday, amidst R1.2bn in graft allegations identified in a Special Investigating Unit report.

Mahlangu resigned as health MEC in 2017, on the eve of a damning report by health ombud Malegapuru Makgoba into the Life Esidimeni scandal in which more than 140 mental health patients died. 

The party's provincial leadership, however, disagreed with the integrity commission's recommendation that the Mahlangu and Hlongwa should be suspended from their posts on the PEC.

The pair were re-elected earlier in 2018, despite the scandals surrounding them, which led to the ANC's commitment to good and clean governance being questioned. 

The ANC said in a statement that the integrity commission could not make recommendations relating to the membership of the two leaders, ‘‘both in the PEC and in the structures’’. 

‘‘[The PEC] was of the view that this was the purview of a constitutional disciplinary committee and not the integrity committee,’’ the statement said. 

Provincial spokesperson Tasneem Motara said this did not mean that disciplinary action would not be taken against the pair. 

The decision by the ANC in Gauteng indicates that the party's national leadership could arrive at a similar decision on whether to act on recommendations by the national integrity committee, which on Monday called on Limpopo party leaders linked to the VBS Mutual Bank ‘‘heist’’ to step aside from all party positions and activities.