Northern Cape premier’s family home ‘petrol bombed’

The fire on Sunday afternoon at the home of Lucas's parents has been confirmed by three sources, including one source close to the Lucas family who confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that a petrol bomb was thrown at the family home. A police statement also suggests the incident was not an accident. However, the ANC in the Northern Cape on Wednesday denied that the fire was an "attack".

Lucas was not at the house, situated outside Upington, at the time.

A spokesperson for the ANC in the Northern Cape, Gail Parker, said the party believed the fire was an "accident".

"As the ANC we are not aware of an attack on Sylvia [Lucas]'s parents' house. The explanation we were given is that there was an accident in the shanty built in the backyard of the house. Until we have more information to the contrary, our comment is that there was no attack on the house. There was a serious accident but we are thankful that there were no serious injuries," Parker said.

The premier's office had not responded to questions by Wednesday afternoon.

Northern Cape police could not confirm the cause of the fire although a case of arson is being investigated.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Andrea Cloete said Lucas's brother was fetching water when the fire broke out. Noone was injured.

But a source in the ANC, close to the Lucas family, confirmed that three men were seen circling the house moments before a small petrol bomb was thrown at the premises. He said the ANC wanted the incident "played down" so as not to aggravate existing fault lines in the party.

Lucas's appointment follows months of internal wrangling which pitted pro-Lucas supporters against supporters of the former acting premier, Grizelda Cjiekella, who is close to ANC provincial chairperson John Block. Lucas's appointment is understood to be an attempt by Luthuli House to isolate Block's camp. Block faces several charges of corruption and fraud relating to two separate provincial tender scams.

Those in favour of Lucas's appointment point to her scandal-free track record in government, and her no-nonsense approach to politics.

A source in favour of Cjiekella's replacement said it was hoped Lucas would put an end to tender corruption, which has hurt the ANC's reputation, provincially.

"The National Executive Committee wants that province to be cleaned up. If the status quo remains there's a big risk we will lose the province to a DA-coalition in 2014."

But this would mean cutting off patronage networks in the province, as well as the possible removal of the provincial chairperson from the provincial cabinet.

Lucas is a former typist for the National Party who joined the ANC in 1992. She rose through the ranks of the ANC Women's League to become a member of the provincial parliament, and later, the provincial minister for environmental affairs and nature conservation.

Concerted effort
Two more ANC sources in the province said there was a concerted effort to ensure the attack was not seen as political by the public.

One source claimed the fire was either an attempt to intimidate Lucas or to alert her to the fact that she was "being watched".

"We know she can't turn down the nomination [for the premier position]. But people want her to know that every move she makes will be monitored, especially her decisions concerning Block."

Politically motivated violent crimes have seen a resurgence in South Africa, with a reported spike in the last three years.

The Daily News reported this week that National Freedom Party councillor, Zanele Mthethwa, and her friend were shot at on Monday night at their home in KwaZulu-Natal. KwaZulu-Natal minister for community safety and liaison, Willies Mchunu called on political parties to curb the resurgence of politically-motivated attacks.

There have been 46 alleged politically-motivated murders were reported between 2010 and 2012 in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga respectively.

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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