Mpumalanga police arrest two suspects in murder of ANC councillor and two others

ANC Councillor Sabelo Nhleko was gunned down in Piet Retief, Mpumalanga. Picture: Supplied

ANC Councillor Sabelo Nhleko was gunned down in Piet Retief, Mpumalanga. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 17, 2023


Cape Town - Police in Mpumalanga have arrested two suspects alleged to be involved in the murder of a local councillor and two others.

In a statement released on Tuesday, provincial police confirmed the two, aged 43 and 52, were arrested Monday.

On Friday, January 13, ANC councillor Sbonelo Mthembu, 36, Sandile Khumalo, 51 and Sizwe Mbingo, 40 were shot dead at about 8pm in the Longhomes Township, Piet Retief.

Police said the councillor and his mechanic were dropped off by a friend who was driving a bakkie when three armed men suddenly appeared in the yard and open fired.

Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said the suspects allegedly fired multiple shots at Mthembu and Khumalo who were in the yard and shot Mbingo who was inside the bakkie. He died at the scene.

The suspects fled in an unknown direction.

“The police at Piet Retief as well as the paramedics were informed about the incident whilst Mr Mthembu and Mr Khumalo were privately taken to a nearby hospital,” Mohlala said.

“Mr Khumalo was unfortunately certified dead on arrival meanwhile Mr Mthembu regrettably succumbed to his injuries moments later.

“A case with three counts of murder was opened and a dedicated team of experts in the field of investigation was immediately assembled under the leadership of the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela to probe this disheartening incident.”

The police team worked around the clock until it made a breakthrough.

Officers received information on the whereabouts of the two suspects.

“During the arrest, an automatic rifle with ammunition was confiscated. They are both charged with possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition,” Mohlala said.

“Police also confiscated other firearms and ammunition alleged to be owned by a certain security company however that matter is still under investigation to determine the lawful owners thereof.

“Police will go as far as testing all seized firearms to determine whether they were not used previously in the commission of a crime.

“The police investigation is still underway and the two could also be possibly faced with other charges, including the said fatal shooting of the three victims but for now the duo is expected to appear at the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court today, Tuesday,17 January 2023 on the said charges of being found in possession of unlicensed firearm with ammunition.”

Commissioner Manamela has urged members of the public including families, colleagues to remain calm and give the police space to investigate the matter and bring all perpetrators to book and allow the law to take its course.

“We have always stayed true and committed to our call of duty, that of preventing crime, and when crime has been committed we are obligated in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, to investigate and bring perpetrators thereof to book. We still need support from members of the public regarding further details which may assist in the investigation to come forth. We promise to treat such information with much delicacy,” Manamela said.