/ 8 April 2011

Hit list and mayor links probed

Hit List And Mayor Links Probed

Police are investigating whether there are links between the mayor of an Eastern Cape municipality and an alleged political assassination plot that rocked Mthatha this week. The allegation is that the plot could be linked to the candidate lists for the municipal elections on May 18.

Thembile Ceba is the bodyguard of Siyakholwa Mlamli, the mayor of the King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality. He and Thembinkosi Mapeyi, the mayor’s driver, appeared in Mthatha’s Magistrate’s Court this week on five charges of conspiracy to murder.

Police arrested them last week for allegedly soliciting a hit man and paying him a deposit of R10 000 to kill five prominent provincial ANC leaders.
Police have confirmed they are investigating more suspects and may make more arrests. “We are trying to get to who is behind all this,” Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela said.

If reports about the plot are true, it would have the most severe repercussions of all the controversies surrounding the ANC candidate list processes for the local government elections.

Ceba is a branch secretary in the Mthatha area and Mapeyi is an active ANC member. In the Eastern Cape the ruling party has faced several court cases over the candidate lists but the emergence of an alleged hit list, containing the names of provincial and local leaders, has taken the controversy to new heights.

The list, which the police have established through audio and video recordings, contains the names of the provincial minister for local government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, the provincial secretary, Oscar Mabuyane, the ANC King Sabata Dalindyebo sub-region chairperson, Dumani Zozo, the sub-region secretary, Lulama Ngcukayithobi, and the OR Tambo district municipality mayoral committee member, Solly Nduku.

The allegations the police are investigating are that:

  • Ceba and Mapeyi used Mlamli’s silver Mercedes ML350 car to show the hit man where three of the targets lived and
  • One of them made a R10 000 ATM withdrawal from Mlamli’s account that was allegedly used to pay a deposit to the hit man for the killings.

Mvuzo Notyezi, Ceba’s and Mapeyi’s lawyer, said they denied any involvement in the alleged plot.

“It is a spin-off from the factions in the ANC itself. My clients are closer to the mayor and the mayor is part of these disputed lists. It is a campaign to weaken the position of the mayor,” Notyezi said.

The two suspects are still in custody and their bail hearing will continue on May 3. Mlamli said that his employees used the mayoral vehicle after hours and that he had no knowledge of a murder plot. He also had no knowledge of them withdrawing money from his account.

“They know my PIN [personal identification number] and I gave them my card, but I’m not aware of a strange transaction like that,” he said. Polela said the mayoral vehicle had been impounded as part of the investigation. He would not elaborate on the possibility of further arrests.

A provincial leader said Mlamli would probably not be returned as mayor after the local government elections and this would leave him jobless. But Mlamli said that he was top of the candidate list for the region and therefore his job was safe. “I have no reason to panic, there is no reason for me to go to such lengths,” he said.

Police are investigating claims that Ceba and Mapeyi went to the taxi rank in Mthatha two weeks ago while driving the mayoral vehicle and “asked around” for someone who would be willing to kill for money.

The “hit man” they found turned out to be an undercover policeman who “played along”, police sources say — until the money was handed over. “Before the act could be committed and any real damage could be done, the police arrested them,” a source in Mthatha said.

According to Luxolo Tyali, the Eastern Cape National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson, the investigating officer indicated to the court during the bail hearing on Wednesday that “there may be many more [arrests to be made]”.

Eastern Cape government officials who are sympathetic to Mlamli say it is unclear how he might have benefited from the deaths of the five leaders. “They may have been in charge of the lists but how taking them out will help him, we don’t know,” one said.

Another official pointed out that Notyezi had also been used in recent court cases challenging the ANC. “There are some people who want to put the ANC in a bad light because they didn’t get what they wanted,” the official said.

Mlamli said that he had reprimanded his employees when they had taken time off to attend the cases of those who took the ANC to court.