/ 12 April 2019

Mayor may still be charged with murder

Harry Gwala district mayor Mluleki Ndobe facing more investigations over the Sindiso Magaqa murder.
Harry Gwala district mayor Mluleki Ndobe facing more investigations over the Sindiso Magaqa murder. (Mlungisi_Mbele)

As details slowly emerge of how former ANC Youth League secretary general Sindiso Magaqa was killed, Hawks investigators appear to be preparing to once again charge Harry Gwala district mayor Mluleki Ndobe for his murder.

Ndobe had been arrested for the 2017 murder of Magaqa (at the time anANC councillor),along with four other men last month.But charges against him and municipal manager Zwelibanzi Sikhosana were provisionally withdrawn because of insufficient evidence.

Although the national director of public prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, has requested an investigation into why the two were charged,Police Minister Bheki Cele — whose interministerial task team probing political killings made the arrests — has indicated that the investigation is continuing and that charges could still be brought.

On Tuesday, one of the other men charged, the alleged “link man”, Mbulelo Mpofana, claimed during his bail application in the Umzimkhulu regional court that investigators put pressure on him to turn against Ndobe.

Mpofana (34),a former taxi owner, was arrested in the same swoop as Ndobe, Sikhosana and two former police officers. One of the men who allegedly carried out the hit, Sgoro Mdunge, was shot dead by police last year.

Mpofana, led by his counsel, Mdu Mvune, told the court that while in custody at Westville prison he had received “unwelcome visits” from investigators who “asked why I did not want to work with them in this case”.

Mpofana said the investigators, whom he named only as Cele and Sikano, said that “if I would talk …they would assist me”.

He said that on Monday, while travelling from Westville prison to Umzimkhulu, the investigators again “asked me to help them because I am just a link”.

Mpofana said the investigators told him “the people they wanted are the people that are in high ranks” and not him. They had not explained whom they meant by“high ranks”.

During his cross-examination, prosecutor Shohana Moodley said investigators had only asked Mpofana about issues relevant to his bail application and not about the murder case.

Moodley revealed that the state had a witness who would testify that Mpofana had organised the hit and that he had paid R94 000 as part payment to other members of the hit squad he had assembled on the same day the shooting took place.

“I put it to you that if the witness is to be believed, you planned the murder and you paid for the murder,” Moodley said.

The bail application, which was adjourned on Tuesday afternoon, resumes next week.

A second KwaZulu-Natal ANC mayor, Newcastle’s Ntuthuko Mahlaba, who was arrested for the murder of youth league official Wandile Ngubeni in 2017, has been released on R20000 bail after appearing in the Madadeni magistrate’s court last week.

Mahlabahas not stood down as mayordespite a decision by the ANC in the province that its members charged with serious criminal offences should resign from public office voluntarily or be removed.

Also refusing to resign are Mthokozisi Nojiyeza, the Durban Ward 88 councillor, who is in custody after being arrested for the murder of fellow ANC Umlazi councillor Sibusiso Maphumulo last year, and Msunduzi councillor Nkosinathi Gambu, who is awaiting trial for the killing of ANC Pietermaritzburg activist Musawenkosi Mchunu.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu had not responded to calls for comment by the time of going to print.