KZN ANC ‘did nothing to stop graft that led to murder’

Thabiso Zulu claims his warnings to the police ahead of the spate of killings fell on deaf ears. (Photo: Khaya Ngwenya)

Thabiso Zulu claims his warnings to the police ahead of the spate of killings fell on deaf ears. (Photo: Khaya Ngwenya)

ANC KwaZulu-Natal leaders turned a blind eye to rampant corruption and maladministration in its Harry Gwala region, costing at least five councillors their lives this year, the Moerane commission into the killing of political office bearers heard this week.

The lack of political will to deal with “village heroes” who had “looted” Umzimkhulu and other municipalities had created a culture of impunity, evidence suggested.

Self-proclaimed corruption buster and former ANC Youth League regional leader Thabiso Zulu, a friend of murdered Umzimkhulu councillor Sindiso Magaqa, spent two days briefing the commission about corruption in the party’s Harry Gwala region.

Former youth league secretary general Magaqa was shot in July and died last month from his injuries. His murder followed that of municipal speaker and ANC regional secretary Khaya Thobela. Mduduzi Shibase, tipped to take over as speaker from Thobela, was gunned down two weeks later. Last week, Nkosinathi Ngcobo, a former ANC branch leader employed by the district municipality, was shot at home.

Zulu said in 2014 he had approached former provincial chair Senzo Mchunu and his successor, Sihle Zikalala, about incidents of corruption involving security companies in the municipalities falling under the Harry Gwala region. Zulu said Zikalala had referred him to ANC provincial executive member Bheki Sibiya to get an investigation going.

“I thought I would see some movement,” he said. Nothing happened.

Zulu said he had asked the then ANC provincial secretary to intervene after a “grabber” (a listening device that intercepts cellphone calls) was used illegally by police crime intelligence operatives against ANC activists in the area.  The subsequent probe had failed after he was placed in danger while pointing out where the surveillance equipment was.

Zulu said Zweli Mkhize, then provincial chair, had presided over a “stolen” regional conference in 2009. Zulu and Magaqa were among the youth league leaders kept out of the elective meeting, he said.

“Dr Zweli Mkhize, the unity man, failed us. He failed the Harry Gwala region. The man who speaks about unity did not unite us. He failed to go and listen to the other side.”

Zulu gave a detailed picture of an ANC region that was deeply corrupt, saying businesspeople linked to political office bearers had “looted” Umzimkhulu and other municipalities, operating with impunity.

In one case, he said, a local businessperson had paid R100 000 into an employee’s account and ordered him to withdraw the money and give it to the municipal manager. The bank manager had also turned a blind eye to the transaction because a “village hero” was involved.

Zulu said he had provided authorities with evidence that councillors were fraudulently claiming child care grants, but no action had been taken.

He said he had written to KwaZulu-Natal acting police commissioner General Bheki Langa and crime intelligence about the situation in Umzimkhulu ahead of the wave of murders, but claimed his appeals for intervention had been ignored.

“I believe that, if the emails had been taken seriously, some of the killings in Umzimkhulu and Harry Gwala would not have taken place.”

He also described how the security establishment had failed to deal with killings in the area, saying the Independent Police Investigative Directorate had been “very useless” in investigating complaints of police complicity in political violence.

He claims to have been assaulted by members of the police’s Tactical Response Team in 2012, but says the Creighton police refused to open a case until the then provincial head of detectives, General Pat Brown, intervened.

Zulu said the 2011 killings of ANC eThekwini secretary S’bu Sibiya and his South Coast counterpart, Wandile Mkhize, had been covered up, with only the “foot soldiers” being jailed.

“They are going to collapse it [the Magaqa investigation] so that they don’t arrest the masters,” Zulu said.

He said Magaqa and the other Harry Gwala victims had been murdered close to their homes in a “calculated” move to instil fear in their communities and their families.

The police, he said, were not directly involved in the killings but “they are the ones who make sure that the cases don’t get solved”.

An angry Zulu also said witnesses were not being protected by investigators. “Cases are not getting solved. I’m here. I might be get killed. More young people with bright futures might get killed,” Zulu said.

Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker referred the Mail & Guardian to the Hawks for comment, which was not forthcoming. Naicker said all political killings were being dealt with by a task team appointed by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula. 

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