Many killings, little justice

2016-07-11 14:56
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Pietermaritzburg - With the number of political killings rising ahead of the upcoming local government elections, concerns have been raised over the low conviction rate.

In an analysis of the criminal justice system’s response to the killings, independent researcher specialising in crime and criminal justice David Bruce reckons less than 10% of political killings dating from 2003 may have resulted in convictions.

Bruce said there have been 10 convictions for apparent post-apartheid political killings, with seven of these convictions secured in this province.

But estimates from police and violence monitors say at least 12 people have died this year alone in violence believed to be politically motivated.

KZN accounts for about 90% of these killings.

Bruce estimated there have been more than 450 politically motivated murders since 1994, a claim repeated by the South African Local Government Association.

The Institute for Security Studies said there were 71 killings related to politics between 2006 and 2014.

As for the ANC itself, one internal report claims 38 members have been killed in KZN alone since the beginning of 2011.

That report is three years old and it excludes 13 IFP and NFP members who were killed in the same period.

Bruce said the conviction rate raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in responding to these killings.

“This may indicate that the South African criminal justice system does not consistently give high priority to these cases.

“One feature of a number of the cases listed here has been the allegation that a senior person who had not been charged, had instigated and perhaps paid for the killing,” he said.

Violence monitor Mary de Haas said police were not gathering enough evidence to secure convictions in these murders.

“Very often you will find that police will put out a statement to say that they have arrested someone. But if you follow up you will find that charges have been withdrawn because of a lack of evidence.

“The problem is that we have a police service that has serious problems with detective work.”

Provincial ANC spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said the low conviction rate was of concern to the party.

The bulk of the killings in the province have claimed the lives of ANC branch leaders.

“All we are saying is that the perpetrators should be arrested immaterial of their political affiliation.

“However, we want to appeal to police to do proper investigations before arresting someone. In some cases, our members have been arrested but charges later withdrawn.

“The problem is the stigma associated with having been accused of killing a member of your own party.”

Ntuli said the party’s task team which was set up to probe the killings of ANC members in the province, had made some progress.

“But our focus is not necessarily to establish who the killers are.

“It is to investigate whether internal dynamics give rise to killings,” he said.

Recently, Thembi Mbongo (35), an ANC candidate for Ward 6 in the Newcastle Emalahleni Municipality, was gunned down in front of her family hours after returning from ANC election events.

Her murder followed those of four ANC members in Pietermaritzburg who were all killed in June.

Edendale branch treasurer Simo Ncwabe, who had resigned a day earlier as Mpofana chief financial executive officer, was gunned down on June 1 outside his Edendale home while taking his children to school.

Later on that day, Edendale branch chairperson Nathi Hlongwa was killed outside his Imbali home while coming back from a branch meeting.

The killings followed political turmoil in the ANC structures in the region resulting in violent protests across the region.

Earlier this year, an alleged Msunduzi hit-list, which contained 15 names including senior city officials, city political office bearers, Mkhonto we Sizwe military veterans, traffic officers, municipal union leaders, Correctional Services employees, ANC Youth League members and VIP protection officers, surfaced.

Bruce said most killings were related to rivalries within different political parties.

“What has been identified, and notably within the ANC, is that internal party rivalry seems to account for most of the deaths of ANC members in current-day South Africa.

“The question that presents itself is why political killings continue to be so heavily concentrated in Kwa­Zulu-Natal.

“Dynamics related to the high value attached to political office permeates politics in much of poorer South Africa.

“In more affluent parts of South Africa the politicians who are elected are often drawn from the established middle class.

“On the other hand, in poorer areas, politicians are often from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds.

“KwaZulu-Natal is probably the province where questions relating to the political allegiance of poor [black] voters have been most heavily contested, with a range of parties competing for this.”

• sabelo.nsele@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  political killings

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