Richmond killing sparks fear

2017-03-07 11:03
Richmond municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole (inset) was gunned down outside Richlea Primary School yesterday morning. Police inspect the scene as forensic officers hide his body from the view of the public.

Richmond municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole (inset) was gunned down outside Richlea Primary School yesterday morning. Police inspect the scene as forensic officers hide his body from the view of the public. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg- Richmond's municipal manager was gunned down on Monday morning in the town, leading to fears that the shooting will lead to more bloodshed.

Sibusiso Sithole (39) was shot and killed outside Richlea Primary School in Richmond by two unknown gunmen.

Sithole had apparently left the municipal offices on Monday morning to renew his driver’s licence when two men opened fire on him.

Sithole was shot four times before the gunmen fled the scene in a car.

Police, private security guards, traffic officials, ANC delegates and community members rushed to the area, as the forensic team collected evidence from the bloody murder scene.

Richmond residents gathered at the edges of the police tape, pointing and exclaiming and occasionally shouting out in Zulu.

The Witness photographer was told to leave and that this was his “final warning”.

History of political violence in Richmond

Following years of political violence in the small town, tensions within the community are high, with fears that the shooting will lead to more bloodshed.

In 2011, the Richmond Community Hall and other buildings were torched during ANC infighting over the nomination of candidates for the local government elections.

In 2013, Richmond’s then mayor Andrew Ragavaloo had five shots fired at his house, with one bullet hitting the wall directly behind where Ragavaloo was working on his computer.

In August 2013, the then council speaker Thulani Shabalala and his wife were forced to take cover when stones were thrown through their bedroom window.

His car was also torched.

In September 2013, Richmond municipal offices were gutted by fires, including the office of municipal manager Sithole.

In 2014, Sithole was quoted in an article by The Witness on the attacks on the municipality.

Sithole had said that he and the Richmond municipality would “not cower before such acts of cowardice and will continue to serve the community”.

A municipal source who could not be named said Sithole’s death was “just the start” of revenge attacks and killings of other municipal officials.

“There will be many more,” said the source. “Many officials fear they will be next. I am scared too.”

Richmond Mayor Joe Mchunu said on Monday while at the scene of the murder that he was shocked that Sithole had been gunned down.

“He was a very humble man who was very good at his job,” said Mchunu.

“The entire community is shocked. I cannot believe this has happened.

“We are going to have to sit down and find a way forward,” said Mchunu.

Sithole’s brother, Mlu Sithole, was also at the scene but said he was not able to say anything as he was still in shock.

KwaZulu-Natal Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Mxolisi Kaunda, who was at the scene on Monday morning, appealed to the community to help with any information they had that would lead to the arrest of the gunmen.

“This requires teamwork between the police and the community. We do not want people to speculate and ask that they give any information they have to the police,” said Kaunda.

“We will be meeting with police to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the investigation.”

Kaunda said the shooting appeared to have been “organised in the way it was executed” adding that Richmond had a history of violence that he did not want to see repeated.

In a statement released yesterday by Kaunda, he said Sithole was believed to have been travelling without his bodyguards and was shot at through the passenger side window.

He said police are on the look-out for a maroon Toyota Corolla with ND number plates that was last seen heading in the direction of Pietermaritzburg from Richmond.

KZN acting provincial commissioner Major General Bheki Langa has commissioned a task team to investigate the murder.

“We will not rest until the suspects are arrested as this incident took place in broad daylight,” said Langa.

“We are also appealing to community members to assist with information that could assist us in apprehending the culprits by contacting our Crime Stop on 0860 10111,” he said.

The motive for the killing is unknown at this stage. A case of murder has been opened for investigation at Richmond SAPS.

DA statement

The DA sent out a press release on Monday condemning the murder of Sithole.

“It was no secret that Mr Sithole was doing his best to fight corruption and clamp down on wasteful expenditure in the ANC municipality which has been fraught with deep-seated ANC factionalism over the last few years,” said DA MP Dean Macpherson.

He said Sithole had supported the DA’s objection to increasing the number of fulltime councillors in Richmond. Macpherson said the councillors would have been paid R800 000 per year excluding benefits which ultimately would have bankrupted the municipality.

He said Sithole’s “tough stance on corruption and maladministration” compelled him to seek employment as municipal manager at Umgeni Municipality.

“It cannot be that those civil servants who expose corruption and stop ANC factions from looting the local municipalities ultimately pay with their lives. The Sithole family must have space to mourn this tragedy, and when it is appropriate the DA will visit with the family to pay our respects in person.” — Witness Reporter.

NFP Statement

The National Freedom Party (NFP) sent out a statement on Monday sending their condolences to Sithole’s family. “This is no longer about political matters/tender benefits only but it is influenced by evil acts,” said the statement.

“The continuous killings in this province of KwaZulu-Natal pose a serious concern. MEC Kaunda and Premier Willies Mchunu must develop a programme which will deploy police in public places and offices.

“We urge Richmond residents to remain calm and allow police to investigate the matter.

“At this time of sorrow, the National Freedom Party and all its structures pray for the Sithole family, relatives, the friends and all his fans.” — WR.

Sithole had told The Witness in 2014 that he and the Richmond municipality would “not cower before such acts of cowardice and will continue to serve the community”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  local government

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