080113: MKMVA regional chairperson Nduduzo Mdletshe

KwaZulu-Natal - After an eight-day search by police divers, the body of MK Veterans’ Association eThekwini leader, Nduduzo “Sticks” Mdletshe, was found in Inanda Dam on Monday.

Association members warded off members of the media reporting at the scene.

Mdletshe, 40, had been presumed drowned last week after a trip to the dam with friends.

They had spent the afternoon on the new boat of the association’s head of fundraising and business, Lungelo Radebe, when Mdletshe went for a swim and disappeared. Radebe would not comment on Monday.

Mdletshe’s son, Mvelo, his wife, Nokuthula, friends and colleagues were at the dam when the body was brought ashore.

Holding hands, the devastated mother and son walked to their car with their heads down.

Other relatives, friends and association members were in tears.

Four search-and-rescue dogs and 35 policemen had been at the dam looking for the body, police spokesman Vincent Mdunge said.

The search would have been called off only when Mdletshe’s family presumed him dead, he said.

Mdunge confirmed that police search-and-rescue divers had found Mdletshe’s body underwater, in the middle of the dam. Police had opened inquest docket, he said.

Mdletshe, a loyal supporter of President Jacob Zuma, was in the news last year when he lay across the road to Zuma’s Nkandla home to stop DA leader Helen Zille from visiting the homestead.

His uncle, Bhekindlela, told The Mercury at the scene on Monday that the family was “saddened”.

“It was very hard to see him that way. His wife is still traumatised, but we thank everyone for all the support that they showed his family since last week,” he said. Bhekindlela said that Zuma had ordered a “full and large” search.

He said the family had not begun funeral arrangements as Mdletshe “did not belong to his family alone, but his comrades as well”.

Themba Mavundla, the association’s provincial chairman, who was also on the boat when Mdletshe drowned, said at first they had been hopeful that he would be found alive.

After days of searching, “we thought maybe a crocodile had eaten him. We thought we would not even find a bone,” said Mavundla, who works in KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize’s office.

He thanked Mkhize for asking Zuma for assistance in the search.

Meanwhile, in front of police search-and-rescue officers, The Mercury’s news team was threatened by men who identified themselves as ANC and MK association members.

A small group chased Mercury photographer Sandile Makhoba, demanding that he delete all the pictures he had taken. At one stage, he was shown a gun and warned not to take any more.

The Mercury team also had difficulty taking notes at the scene as the men ordered that cellphones and notebooks be placed inside the car.

Mavundla ordered two men to forcefully escort The Mercury team to their Independent Newspapers car and keep guard.

The men ordered that the car be parked next to theirs – far from the scene where the body of Mdletshe was being removed. The Mercury team was then told to leave the scene.

Later, reporters and photographers of the Daily Sun were told not to take pictures, while an e.tv cameraman was obstructed from recording any footage. Mavundla later apologised, saying that they were defending Mdletshe’s family. - The Mercury