DURBAN – Two men appeared in the Richmond Magistrate’s Court on Monday for the murder of Richmond Municipal Manager Sibusiso Edward Sithole, who was killed last year.
The men cannot yet be named as they have to take part in an identification parade. The courtroom was packed with spectators, with many onlookers also gathering outside the courthouse.
Sithole was shot multiple times just before 9am on March 6, 2017 by two unknown assailants who had allegedly impersonated police officers. They fled the scene by car.
KwaZulu-Natal’s inter-ministerial committee – established by President Cyril Ramaphosa this year - took over the investigation into the murder, along with several other cases.
The 39-year-old Sithole had allegedly sent his bodyguards on an errand just before he was ambushed, the Mercury reported at the time.
Sithole’s term at Richmond was about to come to an end and he was set to take up a position at Umgeni Municipality as its municipal manager.
Just days after his killing, police announced that they were offering a reward of up to R100 000 to anyone with information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of the suspects.
Just over a month ago, police released identikits of two men they said could help with the investigation.
Sithole’s murder came under scrutiny at the Moerane Commission of inquiry into political killings, which was tasked with investigating incidents of political violence in the province since 2011.
During his testimony at the commission in August 2017, Democratic Alliance MP Dean Macpherson said that since he had become DA constituency head for Gingindlovu East, which includes Richmond, he had seen “a climate of fear, intimidation and killings in the municipality that had virtually seen service delivery being brought to a halt”.
Macpherson said that corruption was rife and service delivery had been compromised as a result of severe budget cuts.
Sithole was known for having anti-corruption views, according to Macpherson, and he believed this had made Sithole unpopular within the municipality and had led to the executive not extending his contract.
In her testimony before the commission, Sithole’s wife, Slindile, said that her husband had not mentioned his life being threatened and she did not know why he had been allocated bodyguards.
Sithole had, however, told Slindile that the bodyguards were members of Umkhonto we Sizwe who needed employment “and he had to take at least two of them so they could be employed”.
Under Sithole’s watch, Richmond Municipality had received two clean audits. After his death, the African National Congress (ANC) described him as “a dedicated employee who restored the dignity of the Richmond Municipality”.
The suspects will appear again on November 26.
African News Agency (ANA)