The mayor of the Endumeni local municipality, a councillor and an alleged hitman were arrested in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town on Thursday morning after the Hawks foiled an alleged plot to assassinate the speaker of the municipality.
The mayor, 31-year-old Richard Mbatha, the alleged would-be assassin and a 36-year-old councillor appeared on charges of conspiracy to commit murder in the Estcourt magistrate’s court on Thursday, and were later expected to apply for bail.
The three were arrested in a pre-dawn raid by the police’s political task team, appointed to probe the wave of politically motivated murders in the province, and the national intervention unit.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said the arrests took place after the task team “intercepted information’’ about a plot to assassinate the speaker of Endumeni, Bongiwe Mbatha-Makhathini.
The speaker and mayor are representatives of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which took control of the council after the August 2016 local government elections in an alliance with the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters. It is not clear at this stage which party the arrested councillor belongs to.
Endumeni, which is made up of the towns of Dundee, Glencoe and Dannhauser, falls under the Umzinyathi district municipality. The council battled to elect an executive committee after the municipal poll, with the ANC, which had held the municipality, deadlocking with the IFP-led alliance over the posts of mayor and deputy.
Mhlongo said the suspects had allegedly planned to have the speaker killed because she had opposed a tender, the awarding of which they had wanted to influence. “It is understood the speaker allegedly suspected undue influence and possible corruption in the process,” he said.
On Tuesday night, Sifiso Ngcobo, a Durban leader of the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement, was shot dead in an apparent assassination at his home. Two men pumped seven bullets into Ngcobo’s head and body and fled. A second Abahlali member, Ndumiso Mnguni, was shot and wounded in the Kennedy Road area in Durban, sparking street battles with police after residents protested.