Family hope for answers in apartheid murder trial

The family of Mthunzi Njakazi, a former bodyguard of the then-ANC president, Oliver Tambo, have hope that the trial will give them the answers they are looking for.

The family of Mthunzi Njakazi, a former bodyguard of the then-ANC president, Oliver Tambo, have hope that the trial will give them the answers they are looking for.

Published Jan 3, 2024


Durban — Two weeks from now, an Askari and Security Police member is to have his pre-trial heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. He is charged with the 1991 murder of an uMlazi ANC activist.

Elliot Mfanozi Ninela, 62, is alleged to have shot and killed Mthunzi Velemseni Njakazi, who was 21 years old at the time. Ninela was served his indictment by the National Prosecuting Authority in the Durban Magistrate’s Court last year.

Njakazi was a former bodyguard of then-ANC president Oliver Tambo.

On Tuesday, Njakazi’s brother Siyabonga said the family hoped that the trial would give them the answers they had been looking for.

“As a family, we are waiting to hear the truth as to what led the alleged accused to assassinate my brother because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was not able to provide the truth to us.

“We are happy with the progress happening thus far because this is a case that happened 33 years ago. As a family, we are pained that, as we head to the trial, we will have to relive the pain of our loss, but we find solace in that we will find closure if the truth comes out from the trial.”

Njakazi was trained in Angola and was later moved to Zambia to be a bodyguard of Tambo in Lusaka, where the ANC was stationed while in exile.

In 1990 he returned to the country shortly after the ANC was unbanned and the Codesa talks started.

According to Ninela’s indictment, it is alleged that on January 28, 1991, while on duty near Berea railway station, the accused and Bongani Patrick Ndlovu noticed Njakazi and a certain Madoda Mkhize, who they believed were MK members.

“At the time the deceased and Mkhize noticed the accused and Ndlovu approached them. They ran in different directions and Ndlovu chased after Mkhize, while the accused chased after the deceased. The accused allegedly fired shots at the deceased, who sustained gunshot wounds and died as a result of gunshot wounds to the trunk and pelvis,” says the indictment.

Siyabonga (Njakazi) said that at the time of his brother’s murder, the media ran reports that Njakazi had been shot while trying to rob a white woman.

“We are glad that the opportunity for my brother’s vindication has come. At the time of his assassination, we know that his killers tried to place a grenade in his hand to make it seem like he was carrying it. We hold the hope that the proceedings of the high court will reveal the truth as to what transpired when my brother was assassinated.”

Ninela is currently out on warning. He was not arrested but was served with a summons in September last year before appearing in the Durban Magistrate’s Court in November.

Ninela was initially a cadre of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), having left South Africa in September 1981. He underwent training in Angola, Germany and Yugoslavia. He returned to the country in 1988 and was assigned to carry out tasks given to him by the MK command.

Shortly after his return to the country he was arrested at Durban station by members of the Durban Security Branch.

After his arrest, the accused became an Askari, working for the Durban Security Branch under the command of Colonel Andy Taylor.

As was practised during those times, the accused was appointed as a constable without any police training. He was based on Umlaas Road.

In August last year, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (known as the Hawks) started a fresh investigation into Njakazi’s murder.

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