Killings of KZN politicians remain unsolved

With KwaZulu-Natal stubbornly remaining the murder capital of the country, according to the recently released crime statistics, the figures have also brought under scrutiny the plight of families whose loved one were wiped out in political killings motivated by jostling for government resources.

The province is also considered a hotbed for assassinations. Since last month six politicians have been killed in the province.

The high-profile political killings such as that of former ANC Youth League secretary Sindiso Magaqa are proving difficult to solve.

Another case in point is the 2011 murder of Sbu Sibiya, an eThekwini ANC regional secretary who was ambushed and died in a hail of bullets at his Inanda home, south of Durban.

Sibiya was an influential leader in the ANC’s provincial and national politics, and at one stage earned respect from ANC heavyweight and former acting state president Kgalema Motlanthe for his unquestioned integrity and moral standing.

It is believed that his stance on corruption, especially in eThekwini metro, made him enemy number one, eventually leading to his death.

His case was never solved, following the mysterious death of the only witness.

Last week, three men accused of being key movers in plotting the killing of Magaqa were released on bail, leading to an uproar.

Now families of the slain politicians say the wheels of justice are grinding slowly.

In an impassioned plea, Magaqa’s brother Lwazi said the delayed justice had forced the family to relive the ordeal.

“Seeing them roaming the streets tears the family apart. We have not even told our mother because she might not be able to deal with this sudden turn of events,” said Lwazi.

Businessman Mbulelo Mpofana, former police officer Sibonelo Myeza and Mlungisi Ncalane, who are linked to Magaqa’s 2017 murder, were released last week on R5 000 bail each by the Ixopo magistrate’s court.

The trio are expected to appear on July 18 at the Pietermaritzburg High Court where their trial is set to commence.

Like Sibiya, Magaqa is believed to have been targeted because he blew the whistle on corruption at the uMzimkhulu local municipality.

Durban-based community activist Moses Msane and longtime friend of Sibiya is joined by other activists on a crusade to ensure that Sibiya’s death was not in vain.

“We are currently exploring legal avenues because we don’t believe that the deceased key witness was the only person that the court could rely on.

We are also concerned on why he was given bail and was never put under witness protection.

There are many unanswered questions about comrade Sibiya’s case,” explained Msane.

The SAPS crime stats for the third quarter of the 2021/22 financial year (October-December 2021) showed that from June to December last year, 32 politically linked murders were recorded in KZN.

While Police Minister Bheki Cele said the inter-ministerial police task team assembled to deal with political assassinations had made headway, it also emerged that of the suspects who were arrested by the team since 2018, charges were withdrawn against 71, 32 were found not guilty while 72 are in custody. Thirteen of the accused died while 43 are out on bail.

The conviction rate paints a more worrying picture, with only 12 sentences so far for pulling the trigger.

University of KwaZulu-Natal criminology and forensic studies professor Nirmala Gopal said the only way to end the culture of political killings was to deal with political mafias who ordered hits on rivals.

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Sandile Motha

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