As the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal prepares to dump its murder accused mayors ahead of the May 8 poll, national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi wants to know why Harry Gwala District mayor Mluleki Ndobe, was charged with murder without evidence.
On Monday, prosecutor Shohana Moodley provisionally withdrew the murder and attempted murder charges against Ndobe and Harry Gwala municipal manager Zwelibanzi Sikhosana as there was insufficient evidence against them.
Ndobe and Sikhosana had been arrested in connection with the murder of former ANCYL secretary general and Umzimkhulu councillor Sindiso Magaqa and the attempted murder of councillors Nontsikelelo Mafu and Jabu Masiya.
The two had appeared in the Umzimkhulu magistrates court along with three others to make a bail application.
The shock withdrawal has sparked an investigation by Batohi into the withdrawal of the charges.
NPA communication head Bulelwa Makeke said Bathoi had expressed “extreme concern” over that matter.
She said Batohi had asked KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions (DPP) Moipone Noko for a report as to why the two had been brought before the court if there was not sufficient evidence against them.
“The NDPP is worried that the prosecution enrolled a matter without any evidence. That is not how we do things. She is waiting for a report on the matter as she does not understand how this happened and what is behind it all,” Makeke said.
Withdrawing the charges, Moodley told magistrate Fezile Msengana that it would be “unfair” to the two accused to continue to hold them while investigations continued.
There were gasps from the packed public gallery as Moodley said she was “not satisfied that the facts substantiate” the charges against the two, who were arrested on March 16.
The prosecution is trying Sibusiso Ncengwa, an alleged hitman and cash in transit robber, separately from Mpofana, Myeza and Ncalane.
Another suspect in the case, Sgoro Mdunge, was shot dead by police in a foiled cash-in-transit robbery last year.
On Tuesday, Myeza, — former policeman — made an application for bail, which was adjourned until April 8.
During the application, Moodley told Myeza, who refused to answer a large number of her questions as he did not want to incriminate himself, that the state had cellphone records which placed the accused at the scene of Magaqa’s ambush.
Moodley said the state had a witness who was present when the hit was planned, while another would testify that Myeza had been instrumental in bringing on board Mdunge and Ncengwa.
Ncengwa, she said, was appearing the Umzimkhulu’s regional court for the killing of Magaqa in a separate trial.
The separation of trial appears to indicate that the state is preparing to enter into a plea bargain agreement with the alleged hit man in return for testimony against his fellow accused.
Ncengwa was arrested last year.
While he had initially applied for bail, he abandoned the bail application in January.
The case was then adjourned for the indictment to be finalised by the state in preparation for his next appearance on April 29.
Myeza and Mpofana were arrested shortly before Ndobe and Sikhosana were picked up on March 16.
Myeza conceded that he had been in Umzimkhulu on the day Magaqa and his colleagues were ambushed and on several other occasions, saying he had been looking for a child he had fathered with a woman from the area.
Myeza refused to explain more than 30 phone calls between him and his co-accused on the day of the shooting.
On Monday the mayor of Newcastle, ANC Emalahleni regional chair Ntuthuko Mahlaba, appeared briefly in the Madadeni magistrate’s court in connection with the murder of ANCYL member Wandile Ngubeni in May 2016.
Mahlaba, who became mayor earlier this year after Makhosini Nkosi resigned over death threats, faces charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy.
Mahlaba will make a bail application on April 1.
Three of Mahlaba’s bodyguards, Cebo Xulu, Cebo Buthelezi and Sibusiso Sibiya, were arrested in connection with the attack and the killing of local ANC councillor Thembi Mbongwa.
The inter-ministerial task team has also questioned several staff of Durban mayor and ANC eThekwini chairperson Zandile Gumede as part of its investigation into the shooting of Umlazi councillor S’bu Maphumulo last October.
Advisor Mlungisi Ntombela, spokesperson Mthunzi Gumede and personal assistant Makhosi Maphumulo were all repeatedly interrogated by investigators wanting to know about the relationship between the mayor and the men arrested for the killing.
ANC Ward 88 councillor Mthokozisi Nojiyeza, his brother Phumlani and Nkosinathi Mbambo, who were arrested in December, are appearing in court on April 2.
The three failed in an attempt to secure bail in the Umlazi Magistrates Court.
Ntombela has secured an interim High Court interdict against the task team, which he claimed had harassed and intimidated him in a bid to implicate the mayor.
Gumede, who is still loyal to former president Jacob Zuma and increasingly out of step with the provincial leadership, has also claimed that she is the target of a political conspiracy.
Two state witnesses against Nojiyeza, last month claimed that they had been forced into making statements by investigators who had tortured them and offered them money for implicating him.
Sandile Mvelase and Nojiyeza’s cousin, Nkosingiphile, have both recanted the statements they made while in custody and have will no longer be state witnesses when the matter goes to court.
Both have opened charges of assault against the task team, which have been referred to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) for investigation.
Gumede’s supporters believe she is being targeted ahead of the eThekwini ANC regional conference, which will be held after the May elections, in a bid to ensure she is neutralised politically.
“This is all about conference and the NGC (national general council). As it is, she will win conference because she has the support of the branches. They want to make sure eThekwini doesn’t oppose Cyril at the NGC,’’ said one close associate who asked not to be named. “We’ve had the Hawks investigating here, the SIU, now the task team. They want to arrest her — it’s clear.”
This week the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal abandoned its previous stance and announced that any of its leaders charged with a serious offence should step down from public office until the matter against them had been concluded.
The decision was taken at an extraordinary provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting held this week in response to the arrest of Ndobe and Mahlaba and the news that three other mayors are being investigated for political killings.
Secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said that ‘’all comrades charged with serious crimes’’ would be required to ‘’step aside from their positions of responsibility in government, pending the conclusion of their legal cases.’’
Provincial ANC deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu had already declined nomination for May 8 because of an ongoing corruption case against him.
Ntuli said the decision was taken in the best interests of the ANC and the country.
“It does not mean an acceptance of guilt of the accused members of the ANC. However…the reputation, integrity and stand of the ANC is far more important than any of its individual leaders,” he said.
The decision may end up sparking a series of by-elections if its is implemented as there are a number of ANC councillors appearing on murder and other charges in Pietermaritzburg, Durban and on the South Coast.