/ 15 March 2018

Moerane report may be released after all

It’s a wrap: The Moerane commission completed its probe into politically motivated killings in KwaZulu-Natal this week and will submit its report to the province’s premier on April 30.
The commission was chaired by Advocate Marumo Moerane, SC, supported by commissioners Vasu Gounden and Professor Cheryl Potgieter. (Madelene Cronje/M&G)

The KwaZulu-Natal government has done an about-turn on making public the final report of the Moerane commission into political killings in the province.

Premier Willies Mchunu’s office said this week that there had not, in fact, been any decision to prevent the release of the report — and that it would be made public. This contradicted its earlier statement that the report would be retained by his office and its recommendations acted on.

This earlier stance had sparked concerns by some of the more than 60 witnesses and civil society organisations that the report would, like several earlier provincial commissions, never see the light of day.

This week the commission wrapped up its work, some two years after being appointed to probe the underlying causes of the wave of killings of predominantly ANC councillors and officials in the build-up to the 2016 local government elections.

It will submit its report to Mchunu on April 30. The commission has been forced to ask for several extensions owing to a late start and an ongoing battle to get witnesses to testify.

This week the police concluded their evidence and drew the ire of the commission chairperson, advocate Marumo Moerane, after acting provincial police commissioner Major General Bheki Langa did not turn up to testify.

Mchunu’s spokesperson, Thami Ngidi, said that “no decision has been taken not to release the report of the Moerane commission”.

He said Mchunu had granted the commission a final extension until April 30 to allow it to take final witnesses and finalise its report.

Ngidi said section 8 of the KwaZulu-Natal Commissions Act made the release of the report “obligatory after certain processes have been followed”.

He said that the Act gave the premier 21 days after receiving the report to present it to the speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature. It would then be tabled before the relevant portfolio committee, which would comment on it before it was made public.

Mchunu would also make an announcement on what would be done to implement its recommendations.

“The premier has every intention of complying with the clear provisions of the Act and is committed to taking into consideration all the legal obligations that apply to the release of the report,” Ngidi said.

The premier would also “take into consideration the reported threats” to the lives and safety of witnesses who gave evidence, he said.

Activist Vanessa Burger, who gave evidence about the killings at Umlazi’s Glebelands Hostel, said although she welcomed the decision to make the report public, she would continue to apply pressure on the legislature to ensure it wasn’t withheld.

Burger was critical of the evidence by the police at the commission, saying that testimony by former Umlazi cluster head Major General Dumezweni Chiliza, now the deputy provincial commissioner, was “lying” to the commission about events at Glebelands.

Burger said Chiliza’s claim that no police members were involved at Glebelands, where nearly 100 people have been murdered, was untrue.

Burger said that, in December, detective Bhekhukwazi Mdweshu was arrested and charged in connection with 17 of the killings. She also accused Chiliza of misleading the commission about the police’s role in the murder of Glebelands resident Sipho Ndovela as he left the Umlazi magistrate’s court in 2015.