Life in the shadow of death: Threatened KZN ANC councillors are denied bodyguards

(John McCann/M&G)

(John McCann/M&G)

At 9.30pm on Sunday the Khathi family were bedding down for the night. Their helper, Mabongi Msani, was taking down the washing outside. A scream.
As the family came running, a man in shorts and a blue zip-up track top jumped over the boundary wall. Bang! Bang!

Since the beginning of the year KwaZulu-Natal Lower South Coast deputy mayor Sibongile Khathi (33) has been receiving death threats. The attempt on her life at her home in Umzinto this week brought the veracity of the threats home.

This attack on the ANC proportional representation councillor and deputy mayor of the Umdoni municipality is believed to be linked to the political tensions in the area. The Lower South Coast ANC regional leadership was suspended earlier this year, and the political infighting in the region has had a heavy impact on the local municipalities along the South Coast, which are governed by the ANC.

According to family and friends of Khathi, the former deputy secretary of the ANC Youth League in the province, and a one-time ally of current provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala, has been under threat since January, when the tensions began to come to a head.

Nevertheless, the municipality refused to provide her with bodyguards, insisting that she only qualified for a driver.

Her husband, Mandlenkosi Dlamini, spoke to the Mail & Guardian about the attack on Wednesday. Khathi was under doctor’s orders and too distraught to speak to the media.

Dlamini said that, although there were tensions at the council, the attack had come “out of nowhere”.

“We reported this at Umdoni. There is nobody there who is taking care of this. We first asked for bodyguards in January.

“The council told us she only qualifies for a driver. What good is that?”

Dlamini said the family had been saved because of the security guards he employed to protect the family home after the threats to his wife.

“Since the beginning of the year I have made a means to pay security from my own pocket. This is what saved us as they came running from their rooms at the back of the property,” he said.

Dlamini said he was concerned that the municipality was failing to protect its officials.

“This is hectic. The municipality is not taking care of this.  They are not ensuring the security of people who are exposed to danger by doing their jobs. This is wrong,” he said.

“I don’t know how this is going to end. I’m very worried about our son. He is 15 years old. He saw the attacker. He is writing exams now and this is a very big strain on him,” Dlamini added.

He was not sure what the motive for the attack could be because his wife had been deployed to the Harry Gwala region as part of a regional task team.

“Nobody is taking this seriously. Nobody has come to see how she is, to check on us. Nobody. Nobody is taking a decision to provide assistance.

“That’s why I ended up saying, if I want to see this woman dead, let me stand by and wait for the council. That’s why we ended up paying for security for her out of my own pocket,” Dlamini said.

ANC sources in the area said that the suspended regional chairperson, Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, had received fresh death threats last week and had increased the size of his security team.

Neither the Umdoni municipality nor the police responded to emailed requests for comment this week. 

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