Ward councillor Thabang Maupa and his wife were ambushed by unknown gunmen who shot them in their car. Picture: Facebook/Thabang Maupa

Johannesburg - The VBS saga has claimed its first fatality after an outspoken ANC councillor, who wanted the party to account for corruption, was assassinated.

Ward councillor Thabang Maupa, 42, of Ward 5 in Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality, Limpopo, and his wife were ambushed on Monday night by unknown gunmen who shot them in their car. 

His wife, 40, sustained injuries but Maupa died at the scene. It is widely believed that his death is linked to his public criticism of the ANC and Mayor Maudu Phokane, whose municipality lost about R280 million it had invested with the now-defunct VBS.

Police spokesman Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the incident happened around 7.30pm after Maupa arrived at the family restaurant business to help his wife lock up.

“After closing, the couple were still in the car when unknown suspects on foot suddenly started firing shots at their vehicle. The deceased was hit several times and died on the scene. The motive of the killing is unknown at this stage, but police have opened cases of murder and attempted murder.

“The police are offering a reward of up to R50 000 for any valuable information that can lead to arrest and conviction,” said Mojapelo.

Now there are growing concerns that Maupa’s assassination would lead to other attacks on other ANC members who have been vocal about the municipality’s involvement in VBS. The matter is said to have caused a split among the party’s members in the Burgersfort area.

“This is the beginning of the onslaught. If the ANC doesn’t take action, it will be digging new graves for its members because others will retaliate. There have been several attacks on the group of councillors that is against VBS,” said Pastor Derick Mosoana, president of Christians of South Africa (Cosa) who lives in the area.

“Maupa was one of the few councillors that criticised the ANC and the mayor publicly. He used meetings and social media to voice his concerns.

For the past few weeks he has been getting death threats. He was killed after a council meeting where he again called for decisive measures to be taken against his political seniors implicated in the VBS Scandal. 

The VBS matter is too deep in this area because even during the meeting municipal staff were protesting and blocking the entrance to where the meeting was being held because they have not received their November salaries because council is broke,” said Mosoana.

An ANC senior member confirmed that the VBS matter had created friction among the party members.

“Some people within want this VBS matter to be swept under the carpet and that we should move on. But we can’t do that because ANC-led municipalities are implicated - our grannies have lost their stokvel money because of the looting at VBS.

“We now have these two factions in the ANC,” said the party member.

However, ANC regional secretary Gary Maseko said there were many possible reasons for the hit on Maupa.

“It would be premature to link it to anything specific because Sekhukhune is a very volatile mining area where crime is very high.

“We must leave this to the police to investigate.

“The ANC had taken a decision that there should be consequences for all those managers involved in the illegal transaction in the VBS matter and this will include suspension of the chief financial officers and the municipal manager,” said Maseko.

The Star