Murdered in the name of politics

2012-09-15 15:03

Two Ward 4 nominees arrested after ANC officials killed

Stopping for a plate of chicken curry with a colleague they dropped off after an ANC by-election preparation meeting last Sunday night cost Dumisani Malunga and Bheko Chiliza their lives.

While Malunga (42), chairperson of the ANC’s Oshabeni branch near Port Shepstone, and Chiliza (39), its secretary, ate their late-night meal with colleague Sifiso Cele, whom they dropped off last, their killers lay in wait in the darkness.

At about 9.30pm, Malunga and Chiliza drove off in Malunga’s car, which had been parked about 50m up the dirt road from Cele’s home.

As they drove up the hill, their killers struck and shot the two dead instantly.

Their car swerved to the side and became stuck in a hole in the road caused by the previous week’s floods.

Chiliza, a shop steward who was meant to attend tomorrow’s Cosatu congress as a delegate from the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), was not even 100m from his family home.

The killings threw Oshabeni, a rugged rural community about 20km inland from Port Shepstone and situated high on the hillside above the banks of the Umzimkhulu River with a view of the massive lime quarry where many of its residents work, into a state of panic and suspicion.

Two hours before the ambush, Malunga told the branch meeting held at the nearby Daughters of St Francis of Assisi convent to start the process of selecting a replacement for Ward 4 ANC councillor Ntombenhle Gcabashe, who died recently. Malunga also told them he would be available to stand.

Malunga and Chiliza had taken on one of the other nominees, taxi driver and Oshabeni ANC Youth League chairperson Sifiso Khumalo, about his suitability to stand because of the involvement of him and his boss, taxi owner Samuel “Hle’’ Cele, in taxi violence.

“The meeting changed as soon as Dumisani said he would stand as councillor,” said one participant who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“He and Bheko raised issues about Hle and Sifiso’s conduct, and the fact that there is still a taxi violence case going on. They were very angry.”

Hle Cele backed Khumalo as a candidate to replace Gcabashe, who the participant accused of having had a “corrupt” relationship with the taxi operator.

“Hle wanted Khumalo in as councillor so that this relationship could continue after the by-election. Dumisani and Bheko were principled guys who weren’t going to allow that to happen. They wanted the branch to be doing the right things and to clean out bad elements,” he said.

After the meeting, which ended at about 7pm, Malunga and Chiliza dropped off other members who did not have cars before heading for Sifiso Cele’s home.

“I had been with Dumisani since about 8am that day at a subregional meeting at Uvongo. We then attended the meeting at Assisi. It ended around 7pm or so.

"We dropped other comrades off, and then Dusmisani and Bheko took me home. To get there, we passed Bheko’s house, which is less than 100m away,’’ Sifiso Cele told City Press.

“When they dropped me, we shared a meal and something to drink at my house. We ate rice and chicken curry. I walked them to my gate and went back inside. Then I heard shots.”

Sifiso Cele and neighbours went to investigate and found Malunga’s car at the roadside.

“The left front door was open. I looked inside. I could see they were already dead. I couldn’t believe that my comrades and friends, who I had just spent the whole day with and who I had just eaten with, were shot dead outside my house. Bheko was only 100m from his gate.’’

On Tuesday, an SAPS task team arrested Hle Cele and Khumalo following two days of intensive investigation.

Both appeared briefly in the Port Shepstone Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

They were remanded into custody and will appear again next Wednesday.

A proposed plea bargain agreement and confession by Khumalo was meant to be concluded at the High Court in Ramsgate on Thursday, but had to be abandoned after difficulty in securing him a lawyer from the Legal Aid Board.

On Thursday night the regional rumour mill went into overdrive again, with reports emerging of a third arrest of a more senior ANC official from the area, which were later discounted by investigators.

While ANC Lower South Coast regional secretary Mzwandile Mkhwanazi is adamant that the killings were neither part of a broader conspiracy, nor had anything to do with the murder of local Hibiscus Coast speaker Wandile Mkhize in June, community and family members believe there are links.

Mkhwanazi first argued that the killings were the work of “ordinary criminals” before confirming both suspects were ANC office bearers.

“This is all political,’’ said Chiliza’s brother, Michael. “This is about political power here. Bheko and Dumisani were good guys who wanted the organisation to be run the right way.

"They loved this community and they loved the ANC. That’s why they were killed.”

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