Living in the shadow of death

2010-09-01 08:27

When police arrested three ­municipal officials for the ­murder of anti-corruption ­crusader Dumisani “Bomber” Ntshangase last week, many of his South African Communist Party (SACP) colleagues were not too surprised.

SACP Mpumalanga secretary Bonakele Majuba, a member of the provincial standing committee on public accounts, said: “Comrade Ntshangase was ­murdered because he was ­beginning to expose corruption.

“We are all facing the same ­situation. I have had cars ­following me and have received threatening phone calls. That is why I ­decided to hire a ­bodyguard for myself.”

Majuba’s view is shared by ­other politicians and civil ­servants who dare talk about ­corruption in Mpumalanga.

According to news reports ­earlier this year, a Mozambican hit man identified as “Josh” has given an unnamed judge an affidavit claiming he killed Mbombela council speaker

Jimmy Mohlala and was offered money and a government job to kill three other politicians.

Rumours surfaced earlier this year of a hit list targeting politicians who fight corruption in the province and journalists who write about graft, but police have refused to confirm the rumours or give further information.

The arrest of five men for Ntshangase’s murder on May 4, though, is a step in the right direction.

Three of those arrested were officials of the Govan Mbeki ­municipality in Secunda.

Police said Ntshangase was championing the protest of Emzinoni hostel dwellers near Bethal who were against the ­upgrading of their hostel into flats that they would have to rent from the municipality.

Ntshangase was shot dead ­outside his home.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi said they had no proof that there was an orchestrated threat to ­politicians in the ­province.

“We are investigating each case as it comes, and we do not see any link,” Hlathi said.

The provincial ANC also said it was not aware of any threats.

ANC spokesperson Paul Mbenyane said: “Frankly, we do not know of any of our members either in a branch, region or the (PEC) provincial executive ­committee who are under threat.”

Premier David Mabuza’s office does not want to be drawn on the issue. His spokesperson, Mabutho Sithole, said: “They must report to the police. We cannot comment.”

But Majuba said he did not bother reporting the threats.

“Laying a charge in this province is useless. People have been killed and no arrests have been made, yet police have the capacity to arrest a journalist very fast, Hollywood-style,” he said, ­referring to the arrest of a ­journalist on charges relating to possession of a letter that claimed Mabuza had resigned.

ANC PEC member Sabelo Shabangu, a former Nkomazi municipal manager, said he had experienced many threats but, like Majuba, had not laid charges with the police. Shabangu claimed he was fired because he exposed corruption in Nkomazi.

Mbombela municipality deputy manager Sgananda Siboza has been under protection since 2008, before Mbombela council speaker Jimmy Mohlala was shot dead. Mohlala was due to testify in the disciplinary hearing of former Mbombela manager Jacob Dladla, who was accused of financial mismanagement involving the R1.4 billion Mbombela Stadium.

Siboza said: “I was the ANC’s Ehlanzeni deputy chairperson when the threats began and there were ­issues on the Mbombela stadium tenders. I am still under protection.”

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