Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba, the mayor of Newcastle, has been arrested by the task team probing political killings in KwaZulu-Natal. The arrest is in connection with the murder of two ANC activists from the party’s eMalahleni Region.
Mahlaba is the second ANC mayor in the province to be arrested in the course of the past week for killing a fellow member of the governing party.
On Tuesday, Harry Gwala district mayor Mluleki Ndobe appeared in court in connection with the murder of former ANC Youth League secretary general and Umzimkhulu councillor Sindiso Magaqa. Ndobe is set to make an application for bail on Monday.
Several ANC sources in eMalahleni confirmed the arrest of Mahlaba, who was taken into custody at the municipality offices.
“The Hawks came and took him right at the council offices,” said one ANC member from the region. “The whole town saw him being arrested.”
Reneilwe Serero, spokesperson for Police Minister Bheki Cele, confirmed that a “senior official” from the municipality had been taken into custody but declined to name them, saying that their identity would only be disclosed once they had appeared in court.
She said the official had been arrested for murder, but that further details would only be made available when the suspect appeared in court.
However, sources in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) told Mail & Guardian that Mahlaba was being charged in connection with the 2016 murders of ANCYL eMalahleni secretary Wandile Ngubeni and Thembi Mbongwa, a local ANC councillor.
Three of Mahlaba’s former bodyguards — Cebo Xulu, Sibusiso Sibiya and Cebo Buthelezi — were arrested during February and March for the killings. They were released on bail and will appear in court again in April.
Mahlaba’s arrest comes after an intensive investigation by the task team appointed by Cele to probe the killings in KwaZulu-Natal.
The murder of Ngubeni and Mbongwa were part of a spate of deadly attacks on ANC councillor candidates ahead of the 2016 local government elections.
They resulted in the party’s regional executive committee (REC) being suspended and replaced with a task team, with a leadership headed by Mahlaba as chairperson being elected earlier this year.
Mahlaba was elected as mayor a month ago following the resignation of Makhosini Nkosi, who quit mid-term because of threats to his life.
ANC spokesperson Gugu Simelane-Zulu said they were “shocked” by the arrest, particularly “so soon after the arrest of the Harry Gwala district mayor.”
‘’We don’t have information beyond what is in the media at this time and are attempting to find out what is happening. We will issue a statement once we have proper information,’’ she said.