Durban - A KwaZulu-Natal deputy mayor looks set to face criminal charges after a man believed to be his bodyguard was filmed shooting a dog with a high-powered rifle.
Graphic footage of the incident was widely circulated on social media at the weekend.
In the video, a man can be seen opening fire on a dog that has been chained to a fence.
The dog writhes and cries and he continues to shoot it.
Eventually, it collapses in a heap on the ground.
A man understood to be the deputy mayor of Mthonjaneni on the KZN North Coast, Philani Ntombela, can be seen in the background, coaxing the shooter on.
Ntombela was not available for comment on Sunday, but on Friday he confirmed to an online news site that it was him and his bodyguard in the clip.
He told the website the dog had been “terrorising” the locals and attacking their livestock.
“If you look closely in the video you can see there is the owner of the dog as well who gave us permission to kill it“ he was quoted as saying.
The spokesperson for the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), Meg Wilson, on Sunday told The Mercury that the Eshowe SPCA was handling the matter.
Wilson said they were opening a criminal case against the deputy mayor and his bodyguard.
She said as per their information on Friday afternoon, SPCA inspectors had arrived at the scene to find that four dogs had been shot.
“One was still alive and was taken to the vet,” she said.
She also said that investigations suggested that this was not the first time the deputy mayor had been behind the shooting of a dog for eating livestock and that he had shot - or had someone else shoot - his own dogs before.
Ntombela’s party, the IFP, on Sunday expressed an “unwavering condemnation of any form of cruelty to animals”.
But deputy national spokesperson Joshua Mazibuko said he had not seen the video and so it was “impossible for the IFP to pronounce a precisely well- informed position on the matter”.
Regardless, he said, the party was calling on the relevant authorities to conduct an urgent investigation and arrive at an “appropriate resolution”.
“As a party we will closely monitor how the relevant authorities deal with this case so that it is swiftly brought to finality, and so that if anyone is found guilty, justice is seen to be done.”
The leader of the DA in KZN, Zwakele Mncwango, has labelled the incident “criminal” and said he hoped the culprits would be brought to book.
“We expect people who are in higher office to take full responsibility and it was irresponsible for someone in that position to be a part of that, let alone get involved. It’s cruel,” he said. “We should be protecting animals and not victimising them. I’m not sure what message that deputy mayor is sending.”
Mncwango said those behind the incident needed to be held to account. “It’s shocking to see someone abusing a gun like that and moreover, using it on an animal in such a cruel manner.”
The KZN Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has too condemned the video and in a statement this weekend called it “horrific”, and the shooter’s behaviour “callous” and “insensitive”.
“This conduct is completely unacceptable, particularly from someone who is expected to set an example in his community as an elected public representative,” said MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
“We add our voice to all those who are calling for a full investigation of this incident. We call for stern disciplinary action to be taken should the investigation confirm the allegations of animal cruelty and intimidation of the community. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated” .
Mthonjaneni Local Municipality Mayor Sibonginkosi Biyela strongly condemned the shooting, saying the municipality had started an inquiry into the matter working with Cogta.
“The municipality does not condone any such abuse against animals. The municipality would like to reassure the communities of Mthonjaneni that the appropriate action would be taken after considering the outcome of the inquiry and investigation,” said Biyela.