Fears more witnesses may be targeted after foiled attempt to kill Thabiso Zulu
Zulu, who is in an undisclosed hospital, was shot in the arm and chest on Saturday evening at Copesville township in Pietermaritzburg.
Speaking from the unknown location, he told Independent Media that he had been walking with a friend after meeting a member of the Young Communist League in the area. According to Zulu, a vehicle pulled up next to them and the occupants began firing shots that left him injured.
Despite the incident, Zulu has appealed for calm amid the attempt on his life.
“I am pleading with friends, comrades and everyone not to use our plight to kill anyone. We are calling for restraint. No retaliation nor fightback. It is a known fact that those who fight against corruption are killed, it is also known that witnesses are silenced in these similar cases. We fear for those who are calling for justice in the Sindiso Magaqa matter and other matters of a similar nature,” he said.
Raising fears about the safety of Zulu, KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said the ANC activist from the Harry Gwala region has been under threat for a long time and he should have been given protection but Police Minister Bheki Cele took the public protector’s report that said Zulu must be provided with security on a judicial review.
Asked whether the province may see a repeat of the 2016-2017 period where politicians were killed every month, De Haas said it was impossible to tell but said witnesses are always under threat.
“It is impossible to forecast an escalation in political killings but there may well be more given ongoing corruption. Witnesses are always vulnerable hence they may opt for witness protection,” De Haas said.
Another activist who has worked with Zulu for years, Vanessa Burger, said the attempt on his life was clearly aimed at silencing him permanently.
“He has been very outspoken about many issues, not only Sindiso Magaqa’s murder. Even the police, in refusing to provide him with protection for so long, clearly also would like to see him dead. Minister Bheki Cele must answer for this. He has blood on his hands,” Burger said.
She added that key witnesses and whistleblowers are regularly taken out in the country.
“The state has shown little political will to protect people who often end up making the ultimate sacrifice for their communities, their country, and justice. This speaks to the state’s continued reluctance to confront the corruption that is at the heart of KZN’s so-called political killings and a broader lack of consequences and accountability for politically connected lawbreakers. Whether Thabiso’s attempted assassination was linked to the Magaqa case or not, witnesses in these kinds of cases are definitely in danger - these witnesses particularly because they have been receiving death threats for a long time.”
Previously, Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane released her remedial action which indicated that action had to be taken against the SAPS for failing to protect Zulu.
On Sunday, Cele’s office had not responded to questions on why the SAPS has gone against the public protector’s ruling and whether it would review its stance in the wake of the assassination attempt.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said on Sunday Cele disagreed with the findings and had opted to exercise his right to take her report on judicial review.