Durban – Police minister Bheki Cele said on Thursday that it was understandable that the arrest of politicians while investigating political killings in KwaZulu-Natal would "trigger political fireworks".
“[The] task team in its nature of establishment is investigating political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, where politicians have been killed, and at times some of the suspects are politicians, which makes the entire execution of the Task Team mandate to trigger political fireworks.
“Unfortunately this has been misconstrued as being meddling in political factionalism of political parties using a state apparatus. It must be emphasised that the investigation and subsequent prosecutions of these cases are done in accordance with the rule of law and ideas enshrined in our constitution,” he said.
Cele was speaking at Servamus House, the provincial police headquarters in Durban.
He was providing an update on the successes of the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on political killings, which was established in May last year by president Cyril Ramaphosa.
A new, beefed-up task team was announced just after the IMC was established. The team was mandated with investigating 163 dockets related to political killings in the province.
Out of the 163 dockets, said Cele, 80 were for murder, 24 for attempted murder, 36 for intimidation and the remainder were for “other charges”.
The task team had made a total of 161 arrests, said Cele.
Twenty-five people had been detained for questioning and released, 136 suspects had been charged, 66 suspects were in custody, 32 were out on bail and 27 had been convicted, he said.
Two suspects had died, five accused had been sentenced to life imprisonment and 22 accused had been sentenced to between six months and 50 years imprisonment.
“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 On six of the 59 cases currently pending in court, charges have been provisionally withdrawn against some of the identified suspects. Amongst the six cases that have been provisionally withdrawn, some suspects have been re-arrested and their cases have been enrolled in different courts,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal was rocked last week by the arrest of two ANC mayors who were allegedly linked to political killings.
Harry Gwala District Municipality mayor Mluleki Ndobe spent eight days in jail after being linked to the murder of former ANCYL leader Sindiso Magaqa, but was released with one of his four co-accused on Monday, during a formal bail application, because of insufficient evidence.
Providing clarity on the matter, Cele said: “The cases have not been withdrawn, certain charges have been withdrawn.”
Newcastle Local Municipality mayor Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba is currently in custody after being charged for his alleged part in the murder of regional ANC leader Wandile Ngobeni in 2016. He will make a formal bail application on Monday.
@IOL@DailyNewsSA When asked about whether he interfered with the investigation of eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede or if she is being investigated, Cele said he does not deal with speculation. pic.twitter.com/ZBEDym8UYx
Responding to questions that eThekwini Municipality mayor Zandile Gumede – who also heads the country’s biggest ANC branch – was soon to be arrested for murder, Cele said: I don’t deal with speculation or investigations that are not finalised.”
Other high profile cases currently in court “that are across the political spectrum”, said Cele, included the murders of SACP member Londiwe Mhlongo, IFP councillor Sibuyiselo Dlamini and ANC member Msawenkosi Mchunu.
Other murders being investigated included the killing of Umvoti chief traffic officer, Thobani Ndaba, who was shot and killed last year at the municipal premises.
The killing of Oscar Hlatshwayo, a senior engineering official at the Alfred Duma (Ladysmith) Local Municipality, who was gunned down in February after dropping his children at school, was also being investigated, said Cele.