Unease over task team

2019-08-16 15:10
Police Minister Bheki Cele.

Police Minister Bheki Cele.

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The ANC has voiced concerns about the quality of investigations conducted by the political killings task team.

This follows the withdrawal of murder charges against the Newcastle mayor, Ntuthuko Mahlaba.

ANC provincial spokesperson Ricardo Mthembu said while the task team should be allowed to investigate without fear or favour, its probes should be thorough.

“We are worried that some of the arrests appear not to have been preceded by a thorough investigation as most of the cases against ANC leaders who had been arrested by the task team were subsequently withdrawn.

“Without attempting to interfere with the work of the team, we would like people to acknowledge the damage some of these arrests has caused to the ANC — they created enormous tensions within the party,” he said.

But, despite these concerns about the task team’s modus operandi, Police Minister Bheki Cele, who is the task team’s political head, yesterday came out in support of the team, saying they had done “an exceptional job”.

“People must bear in mind that the task team made more than 160 arrests in the space of a few months. We can’t be concerned about the withdrawals as they happened in very few cases — the other 160 cases have not been withdrawn,” Cele’s spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero, said.

According to the latest statistics released by Cele, out of the 161 people who had been arrested by the task team, 136 had been charged, 66 were in custody, 32 were out on bail, 27 have already been convicted, while two have since died.

Mthembu yesterday welcomed the withdrawal of charges against Mahlaba, saying the decision will give the Newcastle mayor enough time to focus on his work.

Mahlaba, who had been arrested by the task team in connection with the murder of ANC Youth League eMalahleni regional leader Wandile Ngobeni, yesterday became the second high profile ANC leader to have criminal charges against them withdrawn.

In March, the uMzimkhulu Magistrate’s Court withdrew murder charges against KZN legislature Deputy Speaker Mluleki Ndobe after the team had arrested the former Harry Gwala District mayor in connection with the murder of former ANCYL secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa.

Last week, Pietermaritzburg high court Judge K.Q. Hadebe criticised the conduct of the task team after the men who had been arrested by them complained of ill-treatment.

Granting bail to ANC uMsunduzi councillor Nkosinathi Gambu, Skhayiso Zima, Sifiso Mbelu, Ayanda Ngubane and Gift Zungu, who were arrested for the murder of Musawenkosi “Maqatha” Mchunu in May last year, Hadebe lambasted the methods used by the task team when arresting suspects.

“Law enforcement is enjoined also by the Constitution of the land to protect suspected and arrested person’s rights.

“Should the country not be worried if such serious allegations get made against an elite group of senior investigators?” the Judge asked.

The task team was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July last year following a spike in political murders in the province. Its members were drawn from the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks and the State Security Agency

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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