Riot squads on alert in Mpumalanga
Bushbuckridge - Heavily armoured police riot squads have been placed on alert to protect Mpumalanga politicians accused of complicity in the murder of chief whip of the Ehlanzeni district municipality, Johan Ndlovu.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi confirmed on Monday that public order policing units have been deployed into the volatile Bushbuckridge area, along with additional police officers from neighbouring police stations.
"We are using the additional manpower to prevent any further vigilante attacks. This follows the attack on a house on Friday, when the community attacked the house of a relative of a councillor," said Hlathi.
"We dashed to the house after getting a tip-off, but the first vehicle to arrive was badly damaged. All its windows were smashed. When extra manpower arrived, we managed to arrest 39 (protesters)."
The increased security also follows a mass protest by demonstrators at the Mhala magistrate's courts on Monday, where villagers demanded that bail not be granted to suspects arrested for the murder last week.
Police arrested five suspects who are believed to be part of the same gang, but charges were dropped against two of the suspects as they could not be linked directly to Ndlovu's murder.
The three who will continue to face trial are Bongani Mkasi, 27, of Belfast village near Hazyview and Life Khoza, 22, and Mundi Khoza, 23, from Tshabalala village, also near Hazyview.
Linked to other case
They were were not asked to plead to charges of armed robbery, the possession of an unlicensed firearm and murder.
The were remanded in custody until January 19.
Hlathi said that although two suspects were let off the hook for the Ndlovu murder, they were linked to a separate case of kidnapping and robbery in Pilgrim's Rest, for which they appeared in the Graskop magistrate's court on Monday.
The 39 people arrested for the Friday attack also appeared in the Mhala magistrate's court on Monday on charges of public violence.
They were released on warning until February 28.
Ndlovu was found with multiple gunshot wounds in bushes near his home in Edinburgh village (also known as Luphungu), in Thulamahashe, on January 5.
He is not the only Ehlanzeni district official to be attacked. On Christmas Eve, disaster management officer Portia Mlangeni was shot at her home in KaNyamazane outside Mbombela.
Nothing was stolen. She is currently in intensive care and no one has been arrested for her attack.
Since 1998, 13 politicians or politically-connected officials have died under dodgy circumstances in Mpumalanga.
There has been some media speculation that Ndlovu may have been killed because of a mayoral dispute. The City Press reported that Ndlovu was the top contender for the position of Ehlanzeni mayor.
The other contenders were Caswell Maluleke, who is the current speaker, and Milton Morema, current mayor of Bushbuckridge local municipality.
On Monday, provincial ANC spokesperson Paul Mbenyane said there was no talk of or plans to appoint any of the three men as Ehlanzeni mayor.
“This is just media speculation and it will remain that way," he said.
He said only the police could prove if Ndlovu's murder was political or not.