Death cheats apartheid murder victim family of closure

The funeral notice of slain ANC activist Mthunzi Njakazi, a former bodyguard of the then-ANC president, Oliver Tambo. His alleged killer, an askari, died before his trial could commence this week. | SUPPLIED

The funeral notice of slain ANC activist Mthunzi Njakazi, a former bodyguard of the then-ANC president, Oliver Tambo. His alleged killer, an askari, died before his trial could commence this week. | SUPPLIED

Published Jan 29, 2024


Durban — The family of an ANC activist who was a former bodyguard of then-ANC president Oliver Tambo have been left without closure following the death of an askari who was to stand trial this year.

Elliot Mfanozi Ninela, 62, was indicted by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the Durban Magistrate’s Court last year for the murder of Mthunzi Velemseni Njakazi in 1991.

Njakazi’s family had hoped that the trial would shed light on who had ordered his killing.

However, this hope was shattered on Monday when the family attended a pretrial conference in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. They learnt that Ninela died in December.

NPA spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara confirmed Ninela’s death. “The NPA has received a death certificate confirming that the accused in this matter has indeed passed away. When the matter came to court, the charges were thus withdrawn,” she said.

According to Ninela’s indictment, it was alleged that on January 28, 1991, while on duty near the Berea railway station, the accused and Bongani Patrick Ndlovu noticed Njakazi and a certain Madoda Mkhize who they believed were Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) members.

“At the time the deceased and Mkhize noticed the accused and Ndlovu approached them. They ran in different directions and Ndlovu chased after Mkhize, while Ninela chased after Njakazi. The accused allegedly fired shots at the deceased, who sustained gunshot wounds and died as a result of gunshot wounds to the trunk and pelvis,” reads the indictment.

Ninela was initially a MK cadre, having left South Africa in September 1981.

He underwent training in Angola, Germany and Yugoslavia. He returned to the country in 1988 and was assigned to carry out tasks given to him by the MK command.

Shortly after his return to the country he was arrested at Durban station by members of the Durban Security Branch.

After his arrest, the accused became an askari, working for the Durban Security Branch under the command of Colonel Andy Taylor.

As was practised during those times, the accused was appointed as a constable without any police training. He was based at Umlaas Road.

Njakazi, of Umlazi, was 21 years old at the time of his murder. He was trained in Angola and later moved to Zambia to be a bodyguard of Tambo in Lusaka, where the ANC was stationed while in exile.

In 1990 he returned to the country shortly after the ANC was unbanned and the Codesa talks started.

His brother Siyabonga Njakazi said the news of Ninela’s death had left the family disappointed and stressed.

“My mother, who is 71 years old, is so sick and distressed by this, the murderer, that assassinated my brother is now dead. We were so hopeful after his indictment to the lower courts, and when we were told that his pre-trail would be in the high court we were elated. But when we got there we got a call from the prosecutor telling us the assassin had died on 26 December and the Hawks would be coming to our home to explain this to us. We are no different from the Chris Hani family. We feel the pain that Mama Hani felt. We don’t have the answers we want.”

Siyabonga said his mother had been affected more than any other members of the family.

“My mother is so stressed by this. She doesn’t even have any support psychologically. We now want to start our healing journey and get over this. We wanted to know who sent him to kill my brother. We just thank God that we got to see the face of my brother’s killer. We saw him in the lower court when he was indicted. He lived his life for 33 years not telling the truth as to who gave the order to kill my brother and he has gone to his grave with the truth that never came out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and we must make peace with this.”

Siyabonga denounced the new MK party endorsed by former president Jacob Zuma, saying his brother would have been highly disappointed had he been alive to see some of the ANC’s former leaders starting a political party outside the ANC.

Sunday Tribune