Durban - The alleged murderer of a sangoma killed before he could testify at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry has been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal.
Nduku Mkhize, 28, appeared in the Mbizana Magistrate’s Court in Eastern Cape on Thursday on a charge of murder. The matter was adjourned to Thursday for a bail application.
Mkhize was arrested at his KwaMaphumulo home, outside Pietermaritzburg.
Eastern Cape Hawks and Gauteng Crime Intelligence police swooped on his home in an early-morning raid on Wednesday.
Police spokesman, Colonel Vincent Mdunge, confirmed the arrest and said the investigation would be handled by Eastern Cape police.
The suspect had been questioned at length by Hawks investigators, a source close to the probe said, adding that bail would be opposed next week.
The source said the motive for killing the sangoma, Alton “Ndzabe” Joja, was unclear, but police were investigating if it was related to violence in the taxi industry in Eastern Cape or to the Marikana inquiry.
Joja, 69, also a taxi owner, was shot outside his home in Ludeke Holt Village, Mbizana, on March 24.
The commission had heard that Joja was believed to have performed rituals for protesting Lonmin mineworkers before the mass shooting on August 16 in which 34 miners died.
He had allegedly supplied miners with “medicine” they believed would make them invincible during the unprotected strike at the mine in Marikana.
While police were trying to contact Joja to get him to testify, he was killed. Three other witnesses due to testify before the commission have been killed.
Mawethu Steven, regional leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in the North West, was expected to be a key witness.
He was shot by four men while watching soccer at a tavern in Photsaneng, near Rustenburg, last weekend.
Miner Lungani Mabutyana, subpoenaed to testify at the commission, was found hanging from a tree in Wonderkop two weeks ago.
National Union of Mineworkers branch secretary, Daluvuyo Bongo, was killed last year shortly before he was to testify at the commission.
Speaking on Monday from the Eastern Cape, Uncedo service taxi association president, Ntsikelelo Gaehler, said he was unaware of Mkhize’s arrest.
But he stood by his statement that Joja’s death was related to a taxi war and not the Marikana massacre, he said.
“His death had nothing to do with Marikana. Days before he was killed he called me and told me that three taxi bosses were putting money together to have him assassinated,” Gaehler said.
Concerned for his friend’s safety, he said he had phoned the taxi bosses that Joja had named.
“They denied it. I warned them to be careful and not bring harm to Joja,” Gaehler said.
“There has been a long-standing feud over taxi routes in the Eastern Cape. The situation got so bad that Joja eventually left the Port Edward area and opened a breakaway branch in Mbizana.”
Gaehler said this had fuelled tension.
“Even now the taxi war is still raging. This week, two cars belonging to taxi owners were set alight.”
The Marikana commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people in Lonmin’s wage-related unrest last year.
Police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers in Marikana on August 16. Ten people, including two police officers, had been killed in the preceding week.