Task team foils killing

2018-05-25 16:00
Endumeni Mayor Siboniso Mbatha appeared in court after investigators had discovered a plot to assassinate the municipal's speaker.

Endumeni Mayor Siboniso Mbatha appeared in court after investigators had discovered a plot to assassinate the municipal's speaker. (Supplied)

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The inter-ministerial task team set up to deal with political killings in KZN on Thursday scored its first major victory after investigators thwarted an assassination plot on Endumeni Municipality Speaker Bongiwe Mbatha-Makhathini.

The investigators’ operation resulted in the arrest of Endumeni municipal mayor, Siboniso Mbatha, who alongside two other people, Thembeni Majola and Xolani Mkhwanazi, appeared at the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court on Thursday. All were remanded in custody until May 31 for a bail application.

The Hawks said last night the plot to assassinate Mbatha-Makhathini was put in motion after she had been accused of being an obstacle to the awarding of certain tenders.

Both Mbatha and Mbatha-Makhathani are IFP councillors.

According to sources within the Hawks, Mbatha’s arrest came after investigators had put him under surveillance following the murder of Mbatha-Makhathini’s bodyguard in February.

“The bodyguard was shot while on duty at the Speaker’s house in Dundee. A threat analysis conducted on the Speaker later confirmed that she was the target and was at great risk of being assassinated,” the source said.

It was only last week that investigators informed Mbatha-Makhathini that it was Mbatha who had been plotting her assassination.

“I was shocked to hear that it was the mayor, my colleague and comrade who wanted to kill me — it is painful to find out that people you are close to and whom you trust are planning all these evil things against you,” Mbatha Makhathini said on Thursday.

Mbatha-Makhathini, who was on her way to see the doctor when The Witness called her, said she was struggling to come to terms with what had happened.

“My health is not good at all, I’m traumatised.

“I really don’t know why these people want to kill me,” she said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced the formation of an inter-ministerial task team comprising of ministers, police, defence, state security, justice and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shaun Abrahams, following a spike in political killings in the province.

Sifiso Cele, an ANC branch treasurer in the South Coast region, Nombuso Mqadi, an ANC activist in the same region, ANC Msunduzi councillor Musawenkosi Mchunu, and IFP Zululand district municipality councillor Samkelo Dlamini were all gunned down in separate incidents in recent weeks.

While police have not made breakthroughs in most of the political killings in the province, power struggles within political parties, the fight over tenders and government positions are named as some of the reasons for the killings.

Democratic Alliance (DA) provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango, whose party has a co-operative agreement with the IFP in the Endumeni Municipality, said the DA hoped that more arrests in political killings would follow.

“The DA hopes that this is the start of bringing all those that are involved in the KZN political killings to book.

“The province’s political task team, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, must prove that they will not allow this province to be run by a gang of criminals, hell-bent on eliminating their political enemies,” Mncwango said.

The ANC, which since last year had been attempting to table a motion of no confidence in Mbatha but without any success, said it will be closely monitoring the case.

“We are curious, we want to know what the mayor’s role was in these attempt to assassinate the Speaker. We want to know whether this is related to IFP internal politics or it has something to do with the municipality,” Lucky Khumalo, the ANC chief whip at the Endumeni Municipality, said.

The IFP welcomed Mbatha’s arrest, urging law enforcement agencies to conclude their investigations as a matter of “urgency”.

“It is with shock and deep disappointment that the IFP has received the news that mayor Mbatha of an IFP-led Endumeni Municipality was arrested on allegations of attempting to assassinate the Speaker of the same municipality, who is also an IFP leader herself.

“As a matter of principle, we too categorically state that as the IFP, we abhor any act of using violence to resolve whatever issues the people may have,” IFP deputy national spokesperson Joshua Mazibuko said.

The arrests came after the Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, raised concerns about the intimidation of staff from his office who had picked up wrongdoing in the accounts of municipalities.

It has since emerged that the office of the auditor-general in KwaZulu-Natal has stopped auditing the books of eThekwini Metro, and has removed its staff from the council, after receiving a series of death threats.

Meanwhile, the Moerane Commission that investigated political killings in the province is due to release its report before the end of the month.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  political killings

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