Police Minister Bheki Cele has defended the investigations into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, saying the inter-ministerial committee was working in a fair, non-partisan manner.
Cele said the team — appointed in May 2018 — was dealing with more than 80 politically related killings in the province and had arrested 161 suspects, leading to 136 suspects being charged.
Cele said 27 suspects had been convicted of murder, while a further 66 were awaiting trial in custody. A further 32 suspects were out on bail, he said.
Cele made the comments at a briefing on Thursday, in the wake of the state’s withdrawal of murder charges against Harry Gwala district municipality mayor Mluleki Ndobe.
National director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi has ordered an investigation into why Ndobe and Harry Gwala municipal manager Zwelibanzi Sikhosana were brought to court when the state lacked evidence against them.
Supporters of Ndobe, and those of Newcastle mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba, who was arrested for murder last Friday have claimed that their arrests are poltically motivated.
A probe into alleged links between Durban mayor and eThekwini ANC chairperson Zandile Gumede and the murder of ANC councillor S’bu Maphumulo has also sparked controversy, with Gumede claiming she is the victim of a political conspiracy.
“It must be emphasized that, the investigation and subsequently prosecutions of these cases are done in accordance with the rule of law and ideas enshrined in our Constitution,” Cele said.
“The progress made to date by the task team is highly commendable and evident to the commitment to serve with integrity without fear or favour and prejudice,” Cele added.
Cele said five accused had been jailed for life, with another 22 being jailed for terms ranging between 6 months and 50 years.
Cele said that while charges had been withdrawn against individuals including Ndobe, the cases are still active and investigations, ongoing.
Charges had been withdrawn provisionally in six cases, but several suspects had been re-arrested and their cases enrolled in different courts.