Durban - The mayor of the Newcastle Local Municipality, who was arrested for murder and conspiracy to murder 10 days ago, was released on bail on Monday.
Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba, a medical practitioner who is also a leader in the ANC’s eMalahleni Region, was granted bail of R20 000 at the Madadeni Magistrate’s Court on the north coast. The state did not oppose bail.
The court precinct was filled with supporters of Mahlaba, many of them wearing ANC T-shirts.
Mahlaba has been charged in connection with the murder of Wandile Ngubeni, the ANC youth league (ANCYL) regional deputy chairperson for eMalahleni.
28-year-old Ngubeni was shot dead at Ikasi Lounge, Madadeni township, in May 2016, while he was socialising with a group of friends.
According to eyewitnesses at the time of the incident, two men entered the tavern and opened fire, fatally wounding Ngubeni and wounding ANCYL regional secretary, Mafika Mndebele.
Barely two months after Ngubeni was murdered, eMalahleni ward 6 candidate-councillor Thembi Mbongwa, 35, was shot dead at her home in front of her husband and children.
Mahlaba was arrested at the Newcastle municipality just days after Harry Gwala District Municipality mayor Mluleki Ndobe was arrested with three co-accused for his alleged involvement in the plot to assassinate former ANCYL secretary general Sindiso Magaqa.
Magaqa was shot in the uMzimkhulu area in 2017 and died from complications a few months afterwards. Two colleagues who were with him were injured but survived.
Several charges Ndobe had been facing were dropped by the state last week for lack of sufficient evidence and he was released, along with one of his co-accused.
Police minister Bheki Cele was in Durban last week to provide an update on political killings in the province, which are being investigated by a specialised task team that was put together just after an inter-ministerial committee was formed to deal with the ongoing violence.
The team was mandated with investigating 163 dockets related to political killings in the province.
Cele said the team had made a total of 161 arrests since it was established in June 2018.
“While we consider these successes of 163 cases to be very significant, it is even more encouraging to note that from 163 case dockets, there have been 52 finalised dockets thus far.
“Fifty-nine cases are currently pending in court and 52 case dockets are still under investigation, with a result of 27 convictions.
“On six of the 59 cases currently pending in court, charges have been provisionally withdrawn against some of the identified suspects. Amongst the six cases that have been provisionally withdrawn, some suspects have been re-arrested and their cases have been enrolled in different courts,” he said.