Former police minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban - The Ministry of Police has dismissed as “false and baseless” claims made by supporters of murder accused Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba that former police minister Bheki Cele was behind his prosecution to settle political scores emanating from internal party conflict.

The embattled ANC mayor of Newcastle appeared in court on Tuesday in connection with the murder of Wandile Ngubeni, a regional leader of the ANC Youth League, in 2016.

Another youth league leader, Mafika Mndebele, survived the attack and later blamed it on comrades.

Mahlaba, a medical practitioner who is also a leader in the ANC’s ­eMalahleni region in northern KwaZulu-Natal, is out on bail of R20 000 after his high-profile arrest in March.

Carrying placards saying, “Cele, the media demagogue, come back to fix your mess”, and in ANC regalia, the supporters inferred that Cele was behind the arrest of Mahlaba, who still professes that he is innocent.

However, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Police, Reneilwe Serero, dismissed the claim.

“Former police minister Bheki Cele does not investigate any case or person or political-related killing. Cele forms part of the inter-ministerial committee appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to oversee the political killing task team, which investigates all politically-related cases in KZN,” Serero said. “Accusations made by supporters of the mayor of Newcastle are false and baseless. Minister Cele has no reason to be settling personal scores or attacking the mayor.”

Mahlaba’s case was postponed to July 9 after his defence team stated that they were still waiting for two representations from the State that had been sent to the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in KZN, advocate Cyril Selepe for observation.

Mahlaba addressed his supporters, but did not say anything about Cele being behind the arrest.

Instead, he insisted that he was still the mayor and the regional chairperson. This comes after the ANC in the province told Independent Media that he had agreed to step aside while working on the matter.

“I am the mayor of Newcastle and I am not going anywhere,” Mahlaba said. “Tomorrow, I will be attending a council sitting to discuss the municipal budget,” he said, adding that his resignation was still some time away.

Meanwhile, with the provincial cabinet in place, attention is now on eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede, who recently met the provincial top five and is facing calls to step down.

The ANC in KZN, through its former spokesperson, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, said it had received a report which it was going to discuss before taking the next step.

Political Bureau