Political killings: Police minister’s numbers don’t add up

(Nardus Engelbrecht, AFP)
(Nardus Engelbrecht, AFP)

Seventeen people have been killed in politically motivated murders in the build-up to next week’s local government elections, according to the police.

But the numbers released by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko yesterday do not add up.

Nhleko told Parliament journalists that four people had been killed, one person in each of the four provinces – Gauteng, Eastern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga.

Nhleko mentioned Simon Modihe – the ANC member who was shot dead on June 19 at the Pretoria Showgrounds while waiting for the ANC to formally announce that Thoko Didiza was its mayoral candidate for Tshwane – as the only “political death” in Gauteng.

An Eastern Cape victim was shot dead in Ntshiqo, a village outside Tsolo. Nhleko said six suspects were arrested with regard to this case.

Another political casualty was from Maboloka in the North West. The victim was killed on March 18 but no arrests had been made. Nhleko also mentioned one political murder in Mpumalanga, which he said was registered at the Pienaar police station and took place on May 25.

At least two other people were reported to have been killed in Mpumalanga this year allegedly over the ANC's candidate list process.

Nhleko could not respond when confronted about excluding these murders.

Nhleko said nothing about the deaths of Tsietsi Mothibe and Kenny Monjomani, EFF members who died after being attacked allegedly with pangas, axes and sticks during EFF door-to-door campaign at the Sethokga hostel in Tembisa in May.

“It’s something that I need to follow up on. If it was registered (with the police) we should be able to capture it as well. It should be part of the work by this very same team,” Nhleko told City Press after the press conference.

In fact, with the exception of a death of one National Freedom Party member and a former Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) member, all the cases that the police are investigating are of ANC members.

The numbers released yesterday also exclude the deaths that occurred this week – two IFP members who were shot dead in Escourt on Saturday and an ANC councillor candidate who was killed in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday night.

“The bulk of political killings took place in KwaZulu Natal,” said Nhleko. But he could not provide a definite number of deaths.

Pushed for a figure by journalists, acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane said: “At some point in KZN we were on a count of 13, but what we are presenting may have been overtaken by events.”

Nhleko described the cases they were investigating as “incidences arising out of political processes”.

He said 25 “politically related violent incidences” have been reported to the police and 14 of those cases were of murder and attempted murder.

They also include two cases of arson, two which relate to public violence, two relating to assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, pointing of a firearm, one case of damage to property and a case of culpable homicide.

Nhleko said as far as the murder cases were concerned, seven arrests had been effected and two arrests for attempted murder. Three people had been arrested for possession of unlicensed firearms and eight for the cases of public violence.

Most of the incidences were linked to the ANC or ANC processes, including fighting following ANC branch meetings, physical conflict between members of the ANC and those of its alliance partners, the South African Communists Party or following other ANC gatherings.

Nhleko said the police are working with the prosecuting authorities to fast-track the cases.

He said the national task team investigating “the so-called political killings” is constituted by several units of the police, including crime intelligence, detective services and the organised crime section of the Hawks.

“We began at the beginning of June; that’s when we had an upsurge of the so-called political killings.”

Nhleko emphasised that the question of whether a matter is political could only be confirmed once it has gone through the full course of investigation. “For now it is something that says ‘you have suspicions that [someone] was taken out because she is a candidate or wants to be a candidate’.”

Nhleko said while each province had its own “focus team” that looks into each case as and when it happens, KwaZulu-Natal had a task team composed of seven detectives, five crime intelligence officers, four members from the Hawks and 11 from the taxi violence task team.

“We felt it was important to pull them into the equation because ... in most of these particular incidences, you find that there are hitmen that are also being utilised and some of those hitmen are also operating within the taxi industry,” said Nhleko.

He said the police had not met with political parties over the killings or political violence, adding that “all political parties have a political responsibility to ensure that all political management issues are properly handled, whether internal or from one party to the next”.

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