A summit of leaders of the African National Congress-led governing alliance in the province of KwaZulu-Natal is the latest important gathering to call for intervention in an escalating trend of seemingly political murders in the country. The issue is complicated by accompanying corruption and criminal activity.
“We call on the government to establish a National Intervention Team to investigate these assassinations. Such team should investigate all politically related cases that have taken place in the province, including the assassinations of leaders of other organisations.”
It is, however, not just KwaZulu-Natal that is affected by the phenomenon of political murders. Neither is this the first call for focused action to deal with the issue.
Last week, Mathews Wolmarans, a former mayor of Rustenburg in the Northwest Province and a member of the provincial executive committee (PEC) of the ANC, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for the murder of fellow ANC councillor, Moss Phakoe, three years ago.
His former mayoral bodyguard and the man he paid to pull the trigger, Enoch Matshaba, 41, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Mafikeng High Court sitting in Rustenburg.
Phakoe was killed on the driveway of his Rustenburg North house in March 2009, just two days after handing over a dossier to the former co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister, the late Sicelo Shiceka, on alleged corruption and fraud within the Rustenburg municipality and implicating Wolmarans.
A few weeks ago, the secretary-general of ANC alliance partner Cosatu, Zwelizini Vavi, said in a speech, “The worst problem of all (in the alliance) is the emergence of death squads. Political killings are on the rise, in particular in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. If this continues, anyone who speaks out will be silenced, the entire state will be auctioned to the highest bidder and we shall be well on our way to becoming a corrupt banana republic.”
How complicated the issue becomes is illustrated by the following paragraph from a recent Daily Maverick report: “Some of South Africa’s provinces are in danger of being taken over by criminals, self-styled überlords who believe themselves to be kings of their blocks. Northern Cape's John Block is the biggest in-your-face example of this. There have been corruption claims around him for years and in 2009 he was found guilty of obtaining a mining licence fraudulently. Still, he remained the provincial ANC chairman, the focus of real power in the province. And when he appears in court after being arrested by the Hawks for more corruption, the Premier Hazel Jenkins and just about the entire Northern Cape government hog the front row in a show of strength and support.”
And it is not only ANC members who are victims of political murders.
The National Freedom Party has seen 22 of its members killed since last year, the South African Press Association (Sapa) reports.
Among nine provinces KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga seem to be the worst hit. The latest killing involved Wandile Mkhize, ANC chief whip in Ugu District municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.
He was murdered at his home in Port Shepstone on the South Coast on June 30. The motive is still unknown and no arrests have been made.
According to the latest figures released by Cosatu, political killings in Mpumalanga stand at 10 since 2006. All victims were allegedly whistleblowers on corruption in the province.
The declaration after last Sunday’s summit also stated that “the need for more involvement of the community in the fight against crime can never be underestimated. As the Alliance, we will embark on an intensive programme of forming street committees and further encourage participation of people in the Community Safety Forums.
“In building moral regeneration, we will partner with religious bodies and embark on a campaign to inculcate the values of Ubuntu.
“Working through the ANC Integrity Commission, we will fight to eliminate all elements of corruption and further instil ethical behaviour among the cadreship and deployees of the movement.”
The idea of re-establishing street committees also featured in discussions at the ANC’s recent national policy conference and is not without some controversy of its own. It is feared by some that these committees can easily be turned into instruments of intimidation during election campaigns.