Murder accused ANC strongman insists he’s a victim of a conspiracy involving his comrades
Former Mpumalanga MEC for agriculture, rural development, land and environmental affairs Mandla Msibi claims there was a plot to assassinate him before he was arrested for double murder and attempted murder.
Msibi also told City Press that his cabinet colleagues were politically conspiring against him, which had manifested when one of them had spread rumours that he was guilty of fatally shooting people.
“A police officer asked me if I was driving a car with a certain registration number and when I said I was, she warned me to stop using it. I parked that car for two weeks and I’ve since replaced it,” he said.
Msibi said that, before he had handed himself over to the police on October 11, he had driven the car once while campaigning for the local government elections and had noticed that he was being followed.
On the weekend before that, he said his personal assistant had received information that various police units had been dispatched in Mbombela to take him into custody, with instructions to shoot him if he tried to resist arrest.
Msibi has been charged alongside Joseph Charlie Ngwenya (35) and Tshepo Matsane (30) for the fatal shooting of Sindela Sipho Lubisi and Dingane Ngwenya, as well as for injuring Sifiso Mpila on August 22 outside Coyote’s Shisa Nyama in Mbombela.
The trio was released on R20 000 bail each on Tuesday by the Nelspruit Magistrates’ Court.
“I was driven around in handcuffs for four hours after handing myself over, as the police – who knew where I lived – said they were verifying physical addresses. When I complained that the handcuffs were hurting me, the police threatened to shoot me dead. My bail application was also deliberately delayed and, at one point, it was heard in an open space because of a bomb threat,” said Msibi.
Targeted to be dismissed
Msibi said that four MECs had acted suspiciously and confirmed that he was targeted for dismissal as MEC, even before the issue of the charges came up. He refused to name them.
One of them, he said, had told people that he had shot and killed Ngwenya and Lubisi.
Before that, the same MEC had allegedly told Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane that Msibi had said she had no capacity to run the government.
Msibi said another MEC had telephoned him and asked about people from ward 45 in Barberton who were shot outside Nutting House Lodge, where the ANC had held its list conference.
Finance, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Vusi Mkhatshwa has confirmed that he telephoned Msibi because he had left the lodge and had heard reports about a shooting incident.
Msibi said another MEC had complained to the premier that he was interfering and running her department, while another MEC (as well as officials from Mtshweni-Tsipane’s office) had called his bodyguards, wanting to know his whereabouts.
“I’ve been vilified for a long time. The premier said she was investigating my department [then cooperative governance and traditional affairs] for Covid-19 corruption, but no final report was released,” he said.
Msibi said he had been lobbied to stand as provincial ANC chairperson since 2018, but had to accede when ANC Youth League members suggested he work with acting provincial ANC chairperson Mandla Ndlovu.
Msibi appeared as a candidate for treasurer on Ndlovu’s focus group slate. He had also been courted by the Ngci faction, which was initially pushing Mtshweni-Tsipane for the premiership, but later opted for former secretary Lucky Ndinisa when the premier had a fallout with Deputy President David Mabuza.
A dispute about a preferred councillor candidate for Barberton’s ward 45 appears to have precipitated skirmishes that culminated in violence, including the fatal shooting of two people and the arrest of a former cabinet member.
City Press understands that the nomination of Njabulo “Tshugulugu” Mkhonto as ward 45 candidate sparked tension between Msibi and Mkhatshwa.
Mkhatshwa is a resident of ward 44 in Barberton, while Msibi is from Pienaar. Mkhonto has sought refuge in Msibi’s house since August 18, after his life was allegedly threatened following an ANC branch meeting at which he was nominated for the position. Mkhonto has claimed that more than 10 people who supported him have since been killed.
On October 15, Mkhatshwa was captured in a live Facebook video addressing members of his ward and claiming that the provincial ANC leadership had imposed Mkhonto as a ward 45 candidate, even though he had been voted for by only three of seven voting districts.
“That imposed comrade isn’t even registered as a voter. He was imposed and now, when he’s arrested, they say it’s our problem. How did we get involved? We realised that this person was a deployee of Pienaar. So Pienaar deploys people to Emjindini. I can’t allow that,” he added.
‘They wanted to kill me’
Mkhonto said that his life had been threatened even before he was nominated as a councillor for ward 45.
The danger to him had become clearer, he said, when he was assaulted in front of police on the day he was nominated. He had escaped and sought refuge with Msibi.
“Ever since, I’ve never gone home. These people are shooting everyone. I know all of them: they’re a group known as Soweto. I’ve told the police about this,” he said.