Plain old greed

2018-10-17 16:33

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While the current pushback against “political killings” in the province should be applauded, labelling the conduct of plain criminals who kill for personal benefit, political killings, has the undesirable effect of glorifying that category of crime.

According to the Moerane Commission, which investigated political killings in the province, greed and not politics, was the main driving force behind the spate of what has been erroneously referred to as political killings in the province.

What actually happened during the so-called political killings is that individuals who were deemed to be stumbling blocks in the race to access municipal tenders and cushy jobs would be assassinated, irrespective of their political beliefs.

Sadly, labelling those who kill for tenders and other economic benefits as political criminals implies that the actions of the cold-blooded killers are somehow motivated by a political purpose, which is far from the case.

Given the history of our country, the public should be forgiven for treating someone convicted for political violence differently from a person who kills during, for example, a house robbery.

This is precisely because in the nineties, people who murdered innocent people in the name of politics were granted amnesty en masse.

The logic behind the amnesty was that pardoning the killers was part of the programme to unite the country through reconciling the various political groups that were fighting each other prior to the 1994 democratic elections.

Even then, the bulk of the killers who applied to be pardoned were not political killers in the strict sense of the term.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission records that considered applications for amnesty show that a number of individuals who claimed to have murdered for a political purpose did not only murder opponents but went to rape and rob their rivals.

Relatives of those who lost their lives during the country’s so-called black-on-black violence were made to weep for a second time as the cold-blooded murderers, who took advantage of the political climate in the eighties and early nineties to commit other crimes, were let off the hook.

In Ntuzuma north of Durban, a widow who fell pregnant after being gang-raped by her husband’s (whose sin was to be an Inkatha Freedom Party member) killers, said one of the perpetrators confronted her years later and claimed that he was the child’s biological further who should be recognised as such.

“He told me that he had seen the child play on the streets and noticed that the child resembled him. He said he was deeply sorry for what happened during the violence and that part of his owning up to the wrongs that took place during that period was for him to acknowledge paternity of the child,” she said, during a 2001 interview with one of the Zulu newspapers.

There are countless other examples of perpetrators, including those from the apartheid government side, who considered the political murder badge as a decoration for their sterling role in the country’s political sector.

Decades after the advent of democracy in 1994, it does not help that the government has chosen to label the killings now being committed by individuals with the intention to loot local government coffers, as political killings.

Police Minister Bheki Cele is on record as saying that cops would not be commenting on the ongoing investigations by the task team investigating political killings in the province as political killings are a “sensitive” matter.

In other words, it is fine for the police to comment on other murder cases as long as the murders are not linked to the looting of government resources that has taken place in the province in recent years.

This is despite the fact that the Moerane Commission has made it clear that greed, as opposed to ideological differences, was the main driver of the violence in the province that has seen more than 100 people — which includes councillors, senior managers at municipalities and ordinary people — being killed.

By classifying the killings as political killings, the government is not only treating the perpetrators differently from ordinary murders but it is also making it difficult for the media to do their job.

Unlike in other murder cases where journalists are able to access the details of arrested individuals from the police, the cops are not allowed to give reporters details on the ongoing investigations into political killings in the province.

This situation does not only make it difficult for journalists to inform the public about progress in the investigation of political killings in the province, it also denies citizens the right to be warned about dangerous people in their communities.

By describing the conduct of cold-blooded murderers as political killing, the government is elevating the status of criminals to that of heroes and heroines — as we saw during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  opinion and analysis

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