Slain councillor was surrounded by dispute

rajar naidoo_19/2 Mercury Harrowing times: Thaga Naidoo, centre, mother of eThekwini councillor Rajah Naidoo, is being comforted by family relatives at his funeral in Merebank, KwaZulu-Natal. Photo: Terry Haywood, The Mercury

By Karishma Ganpath

A top police team was pursuing investigations on Sunday as more than 1 000 people gathered to pay their respects to an eThekwini Municipality councillor gunned down on Friday afternoon.

The atmosphere was tense as Durban Metro Police escorted the hearse carrying the body of Rajah Naidoo to the funeral at the MTSS Hall in Merebank. The controversial councillor was shot and killed at Hoogli Place, Merewent.

Naidoo was a prominent figure in the south Durban basin.

He was the Ward 68 councillor, chairperson of the Merebank Residents' Association, chief executive of the Merebank Housing Association and franchise owner of an estate agency. He had received a call on Friday to evaluate a vacant house at Hoogli Place, where he was met by two armed men and shot at close range. Witnesses said four shots had been fired.

Dir Johan Booysens, of the Serious and Violent Crimes Unit, said police were "exploring all avenues" in their investigations.

Naidoo has earned bouquets and some brickbats, even after his death. Family and friends paid glowing tribute to him.

SA Human Rights Commission spokesperson Karthy Govender said Naidoo had always placed the ambitions of the people before his own.

Naidoo's nephew, Darren Moodley, said: "He was an impeccable character, a man of faith with nerves of steel. He would never waver on his morals for anything. His death is an immense loss to the community." Nash Singh, a close friend, described him as dedicated and selfless.

But he was also surrounded by controversy and had a long history of disputes over housing issues. Some residents believed his death was politically motivated, while others considered it an act of revenge by angry residents.

Among the allegations were that Naidoo had manipulated his various positions for financial gain.

It was claimed that he had bought about 50 homes from desperate residents who could not keep up with payments.

The last Merebank Residents' Association meeting was disrupted by angry protesters who demanded answers to issues about housing and the management of the committee. Naidoo, who chaired the meeting, eventually called it off when he failed to control the crowd of 400 residents.

John Milligan, a Wentworth resident and founding member of the Ngizokusiza non-governmental organisation, said Naidoo had made a living off people in dire circumstances within the framework of the law. "It was legal but immoral."

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