/ 21 February 2022

More ANC murders ahead of party’s eThekwini regional conference

Despite a high court ruling removing unlawfully-elected ANC mayor Dada Morero, the ANC still managed to score itself five new Johannesburg council chairperson positions on Thursday as it cemented its new-found strength in the city. (Photo by Papi Morake/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Another senior ANC member has been killed in Durban, raising fresh concerns about the level of violence ahead of the governing party’s eThekwini regional congress, scheduled to take place in several weeks time.

The region, the largest and most influential in the party, is heavily contested between supporters of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and the radical economic transformation (RET) faction, led by former mayor and chairperson Zandile Gumede.

It is currently being run by a regional task team appointed after the region was disbanded in 2018 and Gumede and several executive committee members were recalled over poor performance.

It still has to complete a significant number of the branch general meetings that need to be conducted ahead of the conference, at which Gumede is set to be challenged for the chair by Thabani Nyawose. Once 70% of the 111 branches have met, a conference date will be set for the election of a new regional  leadership.

The murder of Thulani Shusha, secretary of the ANC’s ward 82 branch in Umlazi, on Saturday night, brings to four the number of party members who have been killed in the city since January in the build up to the conference.

Shusha was shot dead in the township’s W Section while on his way home from an ANC branch meeting in the area, along with another man whose identity has not been released by police.

The two and six other ANC members were walking home at about 6.30pm when they were ambushed by four armed men who opened fire. Several of their colleagues sustained minor injuries in the shootings.

Police spokesperson Colonel Nqobile Gwala said murder charges were being investigated by the Umlazi South African Police Service (SAPS) in connection with the shootings.

“The motive of the killing is yet to be established as investigations continue,” Gwala said.

A member of the ward 82 branch, Sthenjwa Nyawose, said at the weekend that it was believed Shusha’s murder was politicaly motivated. Nyawose said the ANC members had been followed from the meeting by “thugs”, adding: “I believe they had a plot to assassinate him.”

Shusha had been elected as branch secretary last year during the branch general meeting, which was conducted as part of the ANC processes ahead of the elections and conferences.

Earlier this month Bheki Mvubu, a former ANC ward councillor from Clermont township in the west of the city was shot dead in an apparent hit. Mvubu had served one term as councillor, but was still the chairperson of the Archie Gumede ANC zone and chairperson of the ward 19 ANC branch at the time of his murder.

In January ANC councillor Minenhle Mkhize, who was elected in November, was shot dead in his car by an assassin who pumped seven bullets into his body in an attack at Cliffdale in west Durban.

The latest wave of politically motivated murders, which have marked the ANC eThewini conference build-up since the beginning of the 2022, follow a number of killings last year ahead of local government elections held on 1 November.

Tensions have turned deadly on several occasions between sitting RET councillors — who had been in office since 2016, after the faction consolidated its control of the region in 2015 — and the faction seeking to replace them.

In October, Beatrice Nzama, Ncami Shange and Philisiwe Jili were shot dead in a drive-by shooting at a meeting held in Inanda to vote for the ANC ward candidate nominees.

A sitting ANC ward councillor, Themba Mnguni, and ANC member Nomthandazo Mbeje, are among those who were released on bail earlier this month after being arrested for the killings by the SAPS special task team investigating political violence.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela referred the Mail & Guardian to the eThekwini regional task team for comment.

Regional task team convener Bheki Ntuli had not responded to calls by the time of publication.