Whistleblower on KZN violence demands bodyguards

In danger: The State Security Agency said Thabiso Zulu needed protection after he testified at the Moerane commission. (Khaya Ngwenya)

In danger: The State Security Agency said Thabiso Zulu needed protection after he testified at the Moerane commission. (Khaya Ngwenya)

Whistleblower Thabiso Zulu is preparing to go to court to force the police to provide him with bodyguards after the State Security Agency (SSA) found that he needed “urgently” to be protected.

Zulu gave evidence at the Moerane commission of inquiry into the political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, about corruption in the Umzimkhulu local municipality and the murder of former ANC Youth League deputy secretary general Sindiso Magaqa.

He also wants answers from KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu on why he has failed to meet his public commitment to ensure the safety of witnesses.

READ MORE: KZN premier to receive Moerane Commission report

Last year, Zulu went public about corruption in the municipality after the murder of Magaqa — his friend and a municipal councillor.

He said the commission appointed by Mchunu is a response to the surge in political killings in KwaZulu-Natal since 1995, and that police crime intelligence and senior politicians were complicit in the violence. The commission’s report is currently before the provincial legislature and will be made public 21 days after it is sent back to the premier.

Zulu has since asked for state protection for himself and Umzimkhulu ANC member and whistleblower Les Stuta. Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said the threat to their lives must be assessed and that the police must provide them with protection.

A threat assessment conducted by the SSA in May, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, stated that an agency team looking into the matter had found that the two were being followed, and that they were at risk.
The assessment found that the two “urgently require protection from the state” and should be provided with “individual private protection”.

The assessment was sent to Mkhwebane’s office and to the police but little action has been taken. Mkhwebane’s office wrote to Police Minister Bheki Cele in June, requesting that the recommendations be acted upon.

This week Zulu, who is guarded by two minders paid for by a friend, told the M&G he was “tired of being hunted like an animal” and was preparing to go to court.

“I cannot understand why the state won’t act on its own recommendations and provide us with protection. For now I am okay, because a friend has provided this security, but for how long?” Zulu said. “It is as if they have passed the stage of wanting to provide me with protection and are waiting for me to be killed.”

He said it seemed that court was the only way, adding that arguments — made by the police in the past — that they could not provide “ordinary” citizens with protection of this kind was “nonsense”.

“The children of Bathabile Dlamini were given SAPS [South African Police Service] bodyguards on the basis of a threat assessment. They are not employees of the state. When Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma came back from the African Union she was an ordinary citizen, not even an MP, yet she received protection. What about us?” he asked.

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On Wednesday the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), on behalf of Zulu, wrote to Cele, giving him seven days to provide Zulu with protection, failing which they would go to court.

In the letter the LRC said the police have the constitutionally mandated duty to prevent the commission of a life-threatening crime. “Despite the report recommending that [he] be afforded protection, nothing has been done. Mr Zulu continues to live in fear of his life,” it said.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo did not respond to queries. Thami Ngidi, spokesperson for Mchunu, said Cele and the premier’s office “are addressing the matter of security of the Moerane commission witnesses. These processes are confidential and will be handled with all the sensitivity they deserve.”

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