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Concern over political killings ahead of coming elections

Former Stellenbosch deputy mayor Cameron Mcako has been shot dead in his tavern, making him the second land activist to be killed in the area this year. Picture: Supplied

Former Stellenbosch deputy mayor Cameron Mcako has been shot dead in his tavern, making him the second land activist to be killed in the area this year. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 4, 2021


Cape Town - Political experts and criminologists have warned that political killings might get worse as we got closer to the local government elections, following the appearance of suspects in the murder case of former Stellenbosch deputy mayor Cameron Mcako, 56.

Mcako's predecessor, a senior member in the DA and a deputy mayor of Stellenbosch, Nyaniso Jindela, his wife, Unathi, and Gladstone Relegu, appeared in the Stellenbosch Magistrate’s Court yesterday, for their alleged involvement in Mcako's killing, which was believed to be politically motivated.

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Mcako was shot and wounded at his Kayamandi tavern on November 1, 2019 and died two days later in hospital.

Amanda Gouws, political science professor at the University of Stellenbosch (SU), said that killing seemed like it was motivated by political rivalry, and things might get worse as elections got closer.

Gouws said law enforcement should follow up on old rivalries about known enemies.

Criminologist at SU's political science department, Guy Lamb, said political killings had been a feature in KwaZulu Natal for decades, not only between the ANC and IFP. He said they also started to be seen in fractional battles between the ANC, largely in relation to who controlled certain positions in local government.

"The key issue that drove this was the easiest way to eliminate a rival was through arranging assassins to get rid of them rather than through a democratic process. Unfortunately, that seems to have taken route in the Western Cape and some places," said Lamb.

He said it had been known for a while that there were disputes between the UDM and the ANC in certain parts of Cape Town, which resulted in political killings related to local government and councillor positions.

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"What we saw in Stellenbosch seems to be something similar, where one way to eliminate a rival is to use violence, and it is the first time that it happened in a kind of prominent position in Kayamandi," he said.

Lamb said the political killings pointed to a worrying dynamic where violence was being used to resolve conflicts within parties and between particular key individuals in a party.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the three suspects were charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, illegal possession of a firearm and illegal possession of ammunition.

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They were all released on R5 000 bail each with strict conditions. “The conditions include house arrest for all the accused. The house arrest gets suspended when they have to get medical attention,” said Ntabazalila.

He said they have to inform the investigating officer when they have to get medical attention, unless it’s an emergency.

Ntabazalila said the house arrest was also suspended on Sundays when the deputy mayor and his wife had to attend church, and that it also got suspended when the accused had to go to work.

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He said they were handed the indictment and the summary of facts, and were expected to join Phumlani Sibongo on June 11 in the Western Cape High Court for a pre-trial on the same charges. “Sibongo has already appeared pre-trial on the charges,” he said.

Stellenbosch Municipality spokesperson Stuart Grobbelaar said the municipal manager had referred the matter to the office of the Speaker for handling in terms of Schedule 1 of the Municipal Systems Act (Code of Conduct for Councillors).

Grobbelaar said the police investigation should be allowed to run its course thoroughly and transparently to ensure that justice was served.

DA provincial interim leader, Albert Fritz, said the party viewed the allegation in a very serious light. "We await further information on the matter and will communicate further upon receiving the outcome of both the internal, as well as external legal processes."

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Cape Argus