Ngwenya attended Orlando High School where he matriculated in 1970. From 1971 to 1976 he was employed by the then West Rand Administration Board (WRAB) as a Grade 1 Clerk. He joined the ANC and ANC’s Military Wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), at the height of a student uprising in South Africa in 1976, his motivation being the brutality he witnessed firsthand while working as a senior clerk at the then-Baragwanath Hospital. While in exile he underwent military training in Angola and received his further training in the then-German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) and Soviet Union (USSR).
Within MK, General Ngwenya rose through the ranks and held the following appointments:
1978 – 1979: Military Instructor.
1979 – 1981: Camp Chief of Staff at various camps in Angola.
1981 – 1983: Company Commander at various camps in Angola.
1983 – 1988: In command of all MK Forces in Angola.
1988 – 1991: Member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC as well as MK HQ.
1991 – 1994: MK Chief of Personnel and Training.
Since integration into the SANDF, General Ngwenya has held the following posts:
1994: Appointed as Major General and served as Deputy General Officer Commanding of the then-Witwatersrand Command.
1996: After completing Joint Staff Course at the Defence College he was appointed as General Officer Commanding of the then-Northwest Command in Potchefstroom.
1998 –1999: Serves as Chief Director Force Preparation for Chief Army Directorate Force Preparation at the Army Office.
1999-2000: Serves as Deputy Chief of Joint Operations.
January 2001: Appointed as Chief of Joint Operations with promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General.
June 1, 2005: Appointed as Chief of the South African National Defence Force with the promotion to the rank of General.
December 14, 2010: The Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans announces.Ngwenya had been appointed ambassador-designate to the Republic of Angola and Lieutenant General Themba Matanzima would act in his stead until further notice.
Ngwenya passed the Army Senior Staff Course in 1996 and the Joint Staff Course in 1998.
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