Durban - Two ANC eThekwini councillors continue to perform public duties despite facing possible jail time for the alleged murder of a civil rights activist.
Council Speaker Logie Naidoo is standing by his comrades, vowing not to suspend the two.
His stance appears to be at odds with that of the ruling party, which said it had suspended the two.
Naidoo’s position on the matter has sparked the wrath of opposition parties, who have urged him to immediately suspend the two until the matter has been finalised in the Durban High Court.
Thuli Ndlovu, chairwoman of Abahlali baseMjondolo’s KwaNdengezi branch, was gunned down at her home in a hail of bullets in September last year.
The councillor for KwaNdengezi, near Pinetown, Mduduzi Ngcobo, and proportional representative councillor Velile Lutsheku were arrested in connection with the murder in February. They were later released on R10 000 bail each. The other person accused of the murder, Mlungisi Siphesihle Ndlovu, is alleged to be the triggerman. The men have not pleaded yet and are due to appear for trial late in August.
Lutsheku chairs the city’s town planning committee. A councillor in the committee, who asked not to be identified, said Lutsheku had missed the past two meetings “for personal reasons” and did not chair the April meeting, although he was present.
Provincial ANC secretary Sihle Zikalala told The Mercury Ngcobo and Lutsheku had been suspended from the party after being arrested.
But Naidoo said the murder charge against the two was still “an allegation” and the city would not act “until the court decides otherwise”.
“It is still an allegation. Our position is that, until the court decides on the matter, until the judgment, we won’t act … The council has not taken a decision. Such decision would have to come through as a recommendation in full council and full council would make a determination.”
Naidoo did not comment on the ANC’s decision.
Zikalala said: “We suspended them when they were arrested. I and the mayor, James Nxumalo, went to KwaNdengezi and briefed the community.”
Asked why the two were still attending council meetings, he said: “Maybe there are internal processes unfolding between us and the chief whip, Stanley Xulu, for documentation to be submitted for them to be stopped from participating.”
Asked about Naidoo’s comments, he said the “city will have to look at their rules, but we as the ANC have decided to suspend them”.
According to the high court indictment, “Ndlovu and her supporters demanded that Reconstruction and Development Programme houses… be allocated to Thokoza residents before people from other areas were considered. This was not accepted by Ngcobo and Lutsheku.”
The two “decided and conspired to kill the deceased”, the indictment reads. It was alleged they procured the hit man for R15 000.
The DA leader in the province, Zwakele Mncwango, accused the ANC of abusing ratepayers’ money, asking how it was possible for a councillor to be suspended from performing party duties yet still draw a salary.
The IFP’s Mdu Nkosi said the ANC should take a leaf from his party’s book and request that the city suspend the councillor.
“When our KwaMashu councillor Sakhi Ngcamu was implicated in a murder, we immediately suspended him and dismissed him when he was found guilty,” he said.