- Police Minister Bheki Cele said political killings in KwaZulu-Natal were on the decrease.
- He added there was a marked decrease in cases from 2016 until the first six months of 2021.
- Cele warned the police would clamp down on any wrongdoers, especially in the build-up to the elections.
Political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, which was once a hotbed for political crimes, are on the decrease, Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Wednesday.
Gathering a contingent of media in the KZN police headquarters in Durban, Cele added there was a marked decrease in the number of cases thanks to the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) for political killings.
He said in 2016, there were 31 murders reported, 20 in 2017, 12 in 2018, a rise again in 2019 and 2020 at 14 murders each, while the first half of 2021 thus far had claimed four lives.
"The murder rate has dropped significantly, however, we are not in the clear yet. Political intolerance through intimidation and extortion still remains a cause for concern, especially as we approach local government elections in the coming months. Interventions are in place to deal with this, proactively and reactively."
The IMC was created after an escalation of political-related incidents in KZN up to 2018.
Cele said there were lower numbers for political killings since it was put together.
"So far, the IMC is happy with the progress made by the political task team. This progress is as a result of the integrated approach of the multi-disciplinary task team which has helped to improve peace and stability in KwaZulu-Natal."
He added a number of police officers were also arrested in connection with political killings.
"It remains a concerning factor of the involvement of law enforcement agencies. In this regard, we have arrested 16 SAPS officers for their links in politically related crimes. The involvement of other law enforcement officials is also being closely looked into."
- There was a 66% detection rate of political killings with the inter-ministerial task team achieving an 83% conviction rate.
- Since 2018, the task team has investigated 226 dockets in which 251 arrests have been made in politically related cases.
- Of that, 46 accused have been found guilty, of which 30 were convicted for murder.
- Out of 34 murder cases, nine life sentences were handed down and 22 accused have had 10 to 50 years imposed on them.
- Twelve accused have been convicted for no more than 10 years and the remainder are going through the court processes.
- In addition, 69 case dockets unrelated to the task team’s mandate were also considered for investigation.
Cele added the unrelated cases were considered because "these cases were somehow linked to politically related cases, either with similar suspects or through ballistics".
He added that over and above the politically related matters, the IMC was conducting intelligence-driven operations targeting unlicenced firearms, which had resulted in 107 cases being investigated.
"Over 200 unlicenced firearms have been confiscated and are now off the streets."
Keeping security companies in check
Cele said they had also performed checks on 25 security companies, a gun shop and police station for firearm compliance.
"During these inspections, 2 360 firearms were seized and sent for ballistic testing. A total of 34 cases were opened and 41 suspects were arrested and charged in cases in terms of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 and according to PSIRA regulations."
He added the high-profile political killings cases included the murder of Qashana Mchunu, a former ANC ward councillor, whose alleged killers were expected to appear in court on 26 July.
"Seven suspects have been arrested, one suspect has been charged with his murder and four of the suspects will face charges of conspiracy to commit murder."
The accused in the infamous murder case of former ANCYL secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa are due in court on 19 July.
"The Task Team arrested eight suspects and five of them have been charged for his murder, one died and charges were withdrawn against two suspects."
Other high-profile cases included:
- The murder of ANCYL member Wandile Ngobeni. The trial has been set down for 12 November after two suspects were arrested.
- The murder case of IFP member Sibuyiselo Phineas Dlamini commences on 22 November.
- The trial date of the alleged killer of ANC Ward councillor Sibusiso Maphumulo has been set to start on the 2 May 2022.
- The murder of Oscar Hlatshwayo, who was the executive director of the Alfred Duma municipality ,will also get underway on 16 of August. Four suspects have been arrested for his murder.
- The murder case of Sibusiso Mbhobo, an EFF member, has been concluded and four of his killers were handed four life sentences each.
- The killer of NFP member Derick Mthethwa is currently serving a 10-year sentence.
Cele warned that heading into the elections, public office bearers should not open fake cases.
"The IMC would also like to caution against the opening of fake cases - mainly intimidation which involve cases of attempted murder. These false reporting is a crime and amounts to defeating the ends of justice. Many of these cases are opened by councillors across all political parties.
"As the IMC, we continue to encourage political tolerance by individuals and parties during this time and beyond," he said.