A KZN taxi boss and ward councillor is being probed for a political assassination
With political assassinations stacking up, police special units are zoning in on a KwaZulu-Natal taxi boss and ward councillor as the orchestrator of the killings.
Until now, the many political assassinations countrywide, and particularly in KZN, have seemed unrelated.
Dennis “Boy” Shozi, the ANC ward councillor of Inchanga who owns a fleet of taxis, is being investigated for his role in a bloody shootout in January, and possibly other killings, a source close to the special task team’s investigation into politically motivated killings in the province told the Mail & Guardian.
In January Phillip Dlamini (68) was shot and killed and four other South African Communist Party (SACP) members were wounded at a meeting at the Kandokweni Sports Ground in Inchanga. Young Communist League members alleged at the time that Shozi was part of the squad responsible for the murders.
The task team is looking into any connections Shozi may have to other politically connected murders in the area, the source said.
In June, three ANC members were gunned down in Imbali, outside Pietermaritzburg, in separate incidents.
“He [Shozi] has the network and the history in this area to be asked to provide iinkabi [assassins] for other people to do the hits. We need to find the link because he seems to be in the centre of all this,” said a member of police intelligence investigating the political killings. ( See Sharp rise in pre-election deaths, below)
At least six people in the Inchanga have been killed in alleged political assassinations since the beginning of the year.
In 2007, Shozi was investigated for his role in taxi violence in the Inchanga area. The police intelligence source said he was worried that the current investigation could hit a dead end, just as the previous one had.
On Wednesday, Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko said collusion between taxi bosses and politicians to orchestrate killings is considered so serious that the police’s task team has roped in 11 members of a unit that looked into taxi violence.
|Inkabi: “In Zulu culture, cattle play a huge rule in formulating language, such as metaphors. So, an inkabi is very young bull, not yet castrated, [it is] very strong and it can fight. It is a bull that has strength and agility. So it’s a metaphor, when you say to a person: ‘You are a hitman.’ ” – Lwazi Mjiyako, lecturer in African languages at the University of the Witwatersrand|
Taxi boss and ward councillor ‘Boy’ Shozi is being fingered by the police as the missing link in a hit in January.
“In most of these particular incidents, we will find that there are hitmen who are being used. Some of them are operating in the taxi industry,” the minister said. Shozi has a long history in the taxi business. He confirmed that his family has been in the taxi business for many years.
“This has been a family business for a long time but it has nothing to do with politics. Just because we have a taxi family business that doesn’t mean we are connected to the killings. My business has nothing to do with politics and the ANC,” he said.
When asked about Shozi’s possible involvement in political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, police task team spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said he would not comment on rumours.
Shozi is running as a proportional representative candidate in Ward 4 of Inchanga.
Themba Mthembu, the South African Communist Party’s secretary in the province who is assisting the task team, confirmed that tensions in Inchanga are fuelled by political and taxi violence.
“We cannot say with confidence that he [Shozi] is involved in the political killings, but there has always been a common denominator, where there is serious conflict between SACP and ANC, and that is him. We have heard that hitmen are for hire in Inchanga,” he says.
But Shozi, who has been a councillor in the area since 2000, has denied that there has ever been taxi violence in the area, claiming people who want political clout have fabricated allegations against him.
“People want to fulfil their own political ambitions. I have been a leader here for a long time. The police have not contacted me in any way but all I know is that there have been people who have been arrested. But besides that I know nothing,” he says.
- Read more: Editorial: Political killings profit no one
He admitted that at least two of those arrested for the January shooting, Buka Shozi (44) and Zamokwakhe Shozi (38), are family members. “I cannot speak to them about what happened because it is before the court,” he says. “But that still doesn’t show I’m involved in any way.”
According to the task team’s report, seven suspects were arrested, two of whom were subsequently released or have had charges against them withdrawn.
Though Shozi denies there has ever been taxi violence in his area or that he was investigated in 2007 when violence gripped the province, particularly in Inchanga, former MEC for safety Bheki Cele said the area has always been susceptible to taxi violence that cannot easily be separated from politics.
“When there was violence during mid-2000s, Inchanga was one of those places that flared up the worst. Even as far back as the mid to late 1990s Inchanga was in the middle of itall.ButasfarasIknow,itwasall political violence and I don’t know much about the taxi violence of the time,” says Cele.
The former police minister said he knows of Shozi but would not comment on police-related matters.
“I would not agree that Boy has iinkabi or that he is one himself. Yes, there was political violence in 2007 and Boy would have been one of the … I don’t know whether they ended up in court or not,” he says, adding that there was much violence in the Inchanga area at the time and that there was a crossover between taxi and political violence.
“I would not give that to Boy as being a hitman or having hitmen in the taxi industry but [to] violent politics, maybe,” he says.
SACP’s Mthembu says there has always been the suspicion of a connection between political tensions and taxi violence.
“Very interesting to note that most of the people who are seen to be at the centre of agitating conflict, between [the] ANC and SACP, are also involved in the taxi industry,” says Mthembu.
Senior ANC leaders in the province were not available to answer questions regarding the allegations against Shozi.
Mdumiseni Ntuli, the ANC’s spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal, said the party is not aware of confirmed links between the taxi industry and political killings. He also denied any knowledge of Shozi being placed under surveillance.
Sharp rise in pre-election deaths
When the Mail & Guardian last reported on political killings in May this year, the number of people gunned down in KwaZuluNatal stood at seven. No one had been arrested.
Since then, that number has increased to 23 people killed across the country. The latest was on Tuesday, when ANC councillor Nceba Dywili was shot dead in Port Elizabeth after campaigning in the Walmer area.
After the M&G’s exposé, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko escalated investigations with the establishment of a new task team, which is expected to work with officials from the Hawks, crime intelligence, detective units and the former taxi violence unit.
The minister’s spokesperson, Musa Zondi, said the participation of taxi violence officials is crucial: “We’ve realised, in some instances, the same suspects for taxi violence are behind political killings.” Besides the political killings, there have been 11 other incidents of violence linked to the contestation for a ward councillor position.
Nhleko said these included arson attacks, public violence, damage to property and culpable homicide. In the past two months, the police have made 23 arrests. Seven people are currently in custody for the murders.