Key ANC leaders were assassinated as part of a rival faction’s “grand plan” for the “political takeover” of the eThekwini region, including the Durban metro and its R40‑billion budget, according to a bombshell claim made by the South African Communist Party this week.
The plan, “influenced by financial interests and national politics”, allegedly saw the ANC’s eThekwini regional secretary, S’bu Sibiya, gunned down in his Inanda home in 2011 on the orders of opponents in his own party.
The claims were made on Thursday by SACP KwaZulu-Natal secretary Themba Mthembu while giving evidence at the Moerane commission into political killings in the province.
Mthembu, the province’s agriculture MEC, said the “takeover” of eThekwini was aimed at securing control of its budget, with the business interests behind the party faction targeting key transport and housing contracts in the region.
“These killings were seen as a precursor to a real build-up towards a fierce contestation of the eThekwini ANC region. The rest is history,” Mthembu said. “Understanding the eThekwini power struggle helps to understand the national power struggle in the ANC, which is strongly believed to have a direct link. Divorcing these battles and power dynamics from the ongoing political killings would be naive.
“The belief among many structures on the ground is that any faction that heads eThekwini metro is also likely to have an influence on national politics and the national leadership.”
The SACP’s provincial chairperson, James Nxumalo, who sat next to Mthembu during his evidence to the commission, was ousted as eThekwini mayor in December 2015 after a series of heavily contested elective conferences.
Nxumalo’s area, Intshanga, has been decimated by the murder of several ANC and SACP members since the conference.
Mthembu said Nxumalo’s political rival in the area, Boy Shozi, backed current ANC chairperson and eThe-kwini mayor Zandile Gumede and made certain that Nxumalo’s supporters were refused ANC membership. This was aimed at ensuring the ANC’s ward candidate would be one of Shozi’s supporters, he claimed.
Nxumalo’s supporters then consolidated themselves into the local SACP branch.
Several members of Shozi’s family have been arrested in connection with two of the murders in the area and are out on bail.
Mthembu said it was a “pity” that the Moerane commission was only considering killings after 2011, because a probe into the murder of Sibiya and several others ahead of this “grand plan in preparation of a political takeover of the metro” would provide an “appropriate explanation” for the current spate of murders.
Mthembu detailed a series of attacks on Nxumalo’s supporters after they had nominated one of his relatives, Malombo Nxumalo, as an SACP/independent candidate in last year’s municipal elections. He won the ward, with the attacks continuing after the election.
Nxumalo’s supporters were also targeted at KwaNdengezi, near Pinetown, where two councillors and a hitman have been jailed for the 2014 killing of Abahlali baseMjo-ndolo chairperson Thuli Ndlovu. One of the councillors is facing further murder charges relating to the death of another Nxumalo supporter in the area, Mobeni Khwela, a month later.
The SACP’s Mthembu said councillor selection methods and criteria needed to be reviewed to end manipulation and corruption, as did the existing tender system, which created competition over resources.
Policing needed to be depoliticised and specialised units focused on dealing with political killings should be set up to ensure that killers and those they worked for were brought to book, he added.
Former ANC KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu on Wednesday painted a detailed picture of how state and party resources were abused to influence the outcome of ANC leadership contests.
Mchunu lost the provincial leadership race to current chair Sihle Zikalala in 2015, but the conference outcome has been declared unlawful by the high court in Pietermaritzburg. Mchunu’s supporters had gone to court to seek the order, and the fate of the party’s unlawful provincial executive committee will be decided by a special ANC national executive committee meeting on Friday.
Mchunu described the manipulation of provincial elective and membership processes in the ANC as “a complicated rot”, saying that it took place at “various levels” from branch upwards. Council seats had become sought after by “influential people” with business interests who believed that it was “our turn to eat”.
Candidates chosen by branches through ANC processes were removed from the party lists and branch membership lists were rigged to ensure that the dominant faction got the result it wanted, he claimed.
Mchunu said security companies and “bouncers” were being used to force activists out of branch meetings, the venues and times of which would be changed to ensure only members of one faction made it to elective meetings. People would use their “assumed powers” to declare meetings with a quorum as valid and to close down those that reached a quorum but delivered the “wrong” outcome, he charged.
Mchunu also told the commission that he had been named as a suspect in the killing of his bodyguard, Xolani Nkosi, who was found dead in his car in July 2015, months ahead of the provincial conference.
Mchunu said he had hired a private investigator, who had traced Nkosi’s cellphone and identified a suspect in Jozini within two days of the bodyguard’s murder. But the Hawks had not followed up on the evidence and instead he had been informed that he was a suspect in the killing. Afraid that the investigation had become “poisoned”, he had called then police minister Nathi Mthethwa for assistance — but the case remained unresolved.
Mchunu called on the commission to recommend setting up a permanent investigative unit, with a legal component, to reinvestigate the unsolved political killings. This, he said, would help to achieve the only result that would satisfy the “grieving” families — the conviction of the killers and those who had paid them.
Mchunu said the failure of the police, the Hawks and the intelligence services to deal with political murders should also be probed if the culture of impunity is to be broken.
Earlier in the week, Nqaba Mkhwanazi, an ANC ward councillor from Phongola in Zululand, told the commission that more than 4 000 fraudulent ANC memberships had been discovered in Nongoma. The fraud had been reported to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Mkhwanazi claimed an ANC Youth League grouping in the region was behind the fraudulent memberships, all of which bore fake FNB bank stamps, “to have more numbers when elections come”.
“Even though fake membership has no impact on political killings, it has an impact on the election of leaders and contributes to faction agendas,” he said.
Mkhwanazi told the commission his friend and colleague, Mbhekiseni “Pat” Khumalo, who was shot dead at his home in December, had been “imposed” on residents in his ward for a second term. People in the ward had promised to force a by-election to remove him because some leaders were opposed to his re-election.
Mkhwanazi said he believed the opposing faction in the party was behind Khumalo’s death. He said that when councillors were deployed there were “strings attached” and that Khumalo had refused to be “remote-controlled”.