A KwaZulu-Natal ANC member believed to be a witness in the murder trial of the party’s Newcastle mayor, Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba, has been gunned down.
Martin Sithole, the former treasurer of the ANC’s troubled eMalahleni Region, under which Newcastle falls, and local businessperson, Buthanani Golden Shange (63) were gunned down outside Shange’s shop in the Newcastle city centre. This happened at around 5pm on Sunday.
SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the two men died immediately in the shooting. Three bystanders who were wounded were taken to hospital.
Sithole (43) was an ANC councillor and a former school principal in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town. The ANC body for the region had been suspended for almost two years because of a spate of killings during 2015.
Sources in the town told the Mail & Guardian that Sithole was going to be called as a witness in the trial of Mahlaba, the ANC’s eMalahleni chairperson who has also recently been elected as the mayor of Newcastle.
Mahlaba was arrested earlier this year in relation to the 2015 murder of ANC Youth League eMalahleni leader, Wandile Ngobeni.
Mahlaba is currently out on R20 000 bail. The three men who acted as his bodyguards, who were also arrested for Ngobeni’s murder, also got bail earlier this year. They are also charged with the murder of ANC councilor in the region, Thembi Mbongwa, a month after Ngobeni’s murder.
SAPS spokesperson Naidoo said that, while the motive for the murders was not clear, the matter was being investigated by the task team investigating political killings in the province. They called for witnesses who might have information about the killings to come forward.
Naidoo did not comment on whether any arrests had been made. But security sources in the town said that one man had been arrested, and another shot by police at Volksrust, shortly after the shooting of Sithole on Sunday.
ANC spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said that the party was “worried” about the latest killing.
“We don’t believe it is our responsibility to speculate about what happened but this seriously worries us,” she said. “These sort of developments started in the regions several years ago but we had hoped we were past them. Clearly there is something amiss that is bringing instability to the region.”
Simelane-Zulu said the party leadership had given Mahlaba 30 days to resign from office, a deadline which had passed just before the election last week.
“As soon as we are done with the electoral processes the ANC leadership will engage with him,” she said.
On Wednesday an IFP member was shot dead after the close of the polls at a voting station in Greytown’s Ward 11.