The arrest of high-profile ANC figure Mluleki Ndobe has forced the party’s top brass to finally admit that political killings in the province could be linked to the party’s own internal battles.
Ricardo Mthembu, an ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) member, made this admission on Monday, adding the court is yet to rule on this particular matter.
Mthembu was addressing the media at the Umzimkhulu Magistrate’s Court, where Ndobe was scheduled to appear on Monday.
He said the ANC in the past had found it difficult to accept that members of the party were being assassinated by their “own”, because this new phenomenon was “foreign” to the party.
“When we received information that some of our comrades were implicated in the killings we thought it was just another rumour.
“Having said that we would like to appeal to the public to respect the innocent-until-found-guilty principle,” he said.
Ndobe, who is also the mayor of Harry Gwala District Municipality in Umzimkhulu, was arrested on Saturday in connection with the 2017 assassination of former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa — who at the time of his killing was an ANC councillor at the Umzimkhulu municipality.
Former ANC Harry Gwala regional spokesperson and whistleblower, Thabiso Zulu, said the ANC leadership’s admission was way too late.
He agreed that the court should be given space to decide on this particular matter.
“I also think it is disingenuous for the ANC leadership to say they had not been aware that people, particularly ANC comrades, are being killed to cover up corruption — mostly committed by ANC senior leaders in the province,” he said.
A close friend of Magaqa, Zulu last year resigned as ANC Harry Gwala regional executive committee (REC) member, citing differences over how the leadership structure should be tackling corruption.
“I’m particularly disappointed that despite the ANC leadership’s commitment to fight corruption, ANC leaders still continue protecting those who are suspected of corruption and other crimes,” he said.
Ndobe, alongside another person, was arrested by the political killings task team currently investigating political murders in the province.
According to Police Minister Bheki Cele, the task team has arrested more than 100 people since it was established six months ago.
A former ANC provincial deputy secretary and current PEC member, Ndobe occupies the third spot on the ANC provincial legislature candidate list.
While the ANC has in the past refused to remove members facing criminal charges from its list, saying the ruling party could only act against them when they were convicted, Ndobe’s arrest seems to have forced the party to reconsider its stance.
Mthembu said the ANC provincial leadership will soon hold a meeting to decide Ndobe’s fate.
“Yes, there is a possibility that the ANC could resolve to remove him from the list,” he said.
ANC supporters, some wearing T-shirts showing Magaqa’s face, had turned out in large numbers at the court. However, there was disappointment following news that Ndobe would no longer be appearing as scheduled due to a full court roll.
Instead, Ndobe, who is also the provincial chairperson of the South African Local Government Association (Salga), will be making his first appearance on Tuesday.