Newcastle Mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba. Picture: Newcastle Municipality.

** This story has been updated

Durban - The police have confirmed the arrest of a high profile ANC leader in the Newcastle Municipality, who is believed to be Mayor Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba.

Mahlaba was recently installed as Newcastle mayor this month after former mayor Advocate Makhosini Nkosi resigned to focus on his law career in Durban.

Mahlaba's arrest has been linked to the 2016 murder of ANCYL deputy chairperson Wandile Ngobeni.

Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson Reneilwe Serero, confirmed the arrest but would not be drawn to confirming Mahlaba’s identity. 

She said more arrests were imminent as the provincial inter-ministerial task team into political killings continues to investigate political murders in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

“I can confirm the arrest of one senior official from the Newcastle Municipality. At this stage we can not name the suspect because he is yet to appear in court,” she said.

Serero said the suspect, Mahlaba, was arrested at his council offices on Friday afternoon and was expected to appear in court on Monday.

“The provincial inter-ministerial task team to political killings is looking into many other cases related to political killings in the KZN province. The arrest is one of many and we are very confident, that going forward, we will see more arrests,” she said.  

Mahlaba’s arrest follows that of Harry Gwala District Mayor Mluleki Ndobe, who was arrested on Sunday in connection with the murder of former ANCYL secretary general Sindiso Magaqa. He appeared in court earlier this week.

The ANC in KZN said it was shocked.

ANC KZN spokesperson, Nomagugu Simelane Zulu, said the party had learnt of Mahlaba’s apparent arrest in the news.

“It has just been made known to us that he might be [arrested] in connection to the death of the deputy chairperson of the ANC Youth League in that region, but nothing has been confirmed, we are still trying to get details,” said Simelane-Zulu.  

Simelane-Zulu said they were calling on law enforcement authorities to speedily resolve the matter.

“As the ANC we are very shocked. We think maybe let us get more details first before we can comment, but it is really starting to look like a trend that is unwelcomed. The good thing is that the leadership of the ANC is currently discussing these matters, but until the leadership has given us guidance on how to move forward we will then be able to speak to the media,” she said.

Simelane-Zulu said the ANC KZN was pleased that answers to questions which have remained elusive appeared to be getting answers.

“As the ANC KZN we have been calling for the inter-ministerial task team to be put in place so that it addresses the killings in the province that we have been seeing. We were worried as the ANC that people were dying, but it didn’t look like there was any leads in relation to that. Now that something is being done, we believe that the people of KZN are going to understand that the law must take its place.

“We hope finally we will get the responses to the questions that we have had and hope these things may be fast tracked so we can close this chapter once and for all,” said Simelane-Zulu.  

Dr Dumisani Thabethe, a spokesperson for the municipality, said the matter was being handled by the mayor’s office. 

“Can you speak to his office, that matter is being dealt with at his office,” he said. 

Sibonelo Mtshali, a manager in the mayor’s office, did not immediately respond to calls and SMSes for comment.

Sunday Tribune