Durban - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has already met police commissioners from KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga in connection with a series of politically motivated killings that have rocked both provinces.

Mthethwa told Independent Newspapers on Friday the plan at this stage was to strengthen the KwaZulu-Natal team already investigating the murders – with the national SAPS office playing an active role. The same applied to Mpumalanga.

“It’s murder committed, the thing of politics is secondary,” he said. “It’s well and good to apprehend people, but we must present a compelling case [to court].”

This is the latest development after a call for a national investigation team was made at the recent ANC national executive committee lekgotla.

The call, by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, stems from disquiet over a series of apparent political hits in the province – and last month’s jailing of former Rustenburg mayor Matthew Wolmarans for 20 years and his then bodyguard for life for the March 2009 murder of ANC councillor and Cosatu leader Moss Phakoe, shortly after he handed over a dossier on corruption at the council.

Police in KwaZulu-Natal, meanwhile, have defended their track record of cracking politically motivated murder cases, citing arrests in 18 of 28 such cases.

This week, ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said the party was still considering the call for a national task team on political killings. He said the party in the North West had been instructed to suspend Wolmarans pending disciplinary proceedings.

However, the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters, which has been talking tough on discipline and the accountability of members, could face an uphill battle. The North West ANC this week seemed in no hurry to act on the instruction, which it described as a request.

“The provincial working committee will reflect on the outcome of the court and express itself accordingly,” said provincial party spokesman Kenny Morolong. “We can’t deal with it [a disciplinary matter] unless we are meticulous.”

The ANC’s June policy indaba agreed on a proposal for its members to step aside if serious wrongdoing was alleged and for an integrity commission to have the power to order immediate disciplinary proceedings. A final decision on whether or not to adopt this proposal will be made at the party’s December national conference in Mangaung.

Cosatu is supporting the proposal as it has spoken out for years about the abuse of office and political connections for personal benefit. Trade union federation boss Zwelinzima Vavi recently wrote in City Press that the emergence of “death squads” was the worst problem and that political killings were on the increase in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

“If this continues, anyone who speaks out will be silenced, the entire state will be auctioned to the highest bidder and we shall be well on our way to becoming a corrupt banana republic,” Vavi said.

Since May, two Nelson Mandela Bay metro officials, at least one of whom was an ANC and SA Communist Party (SACP) member – both were tough on corruption – have been killed, while in KwaZulu-Natal mystery shrouds the killing in May of internal auditor Andile Matshaya, who reportedly discovered financial maladministration in the provincial transport department where he worked.

Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal SAPS say there have already been arrests in 18 of 28 politically motivated murders by a team of senior detectives reporting directly to the provincial head of detectives.

KwaZulu-Natal ANC community safety MEC Willies Mchunu on Thursday indicated there had been 35 possible politically motivated murders since mid-2011 and appealed for tolerance. - Independent on Saturday