he man who allegedly gunned down Nquthu municipality speaker Vusi Ntombela and 13year-old pupil Elizabeth Nhleko in front of a classroom of terrified pupils this week is the bodyguard of the council’s mayor, Emily Molefe.
Police believe the assassination of Ntombela, who in December had resisted an instruction from the ANC subregion to resign as speaker, is related to political tensions in the governing party’s Inkosi Bhambatha region and in the council itself.
Sibongiseni Mdakane (32), who joined the council as a mayoral protector late last year, was arrested, along with Mbhekiseni Khambule (38) and Bhekisenzo Dlangamandla (32), hours after the shooting at Luvisi Primary School, where Ntombela had been deputy principal.
Mdakane, an ANC activist who had worked informally with the mayor before being placed on the council’s payroll, and his co-accused made a brief court appearance on Thursday and will appear in court again on Tuesday.
Dlangamandla is understood to be the chairperson of a local ANC branch.
Mdakane will face two charges of murder and eight of attempted murder for allegedly emptying his firearm’s magazine to ensure that Ntombela was dead.
An officer involved in the investigation, who cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said: “The victim was a teacher and the part-time speaker of the municipality. It seems to us that this is political. We are looking for the big fish who is behind this.”
The bloody attack took place while the popular 47-year-old mathematics teacher and father of four was taking his Grade 6 class through revision ahead of midyear tests. It left teachers and pupils traumatised, and sparked visits to the school from education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and public safety MEC Willies Mchunu.
When City Press visited Luvisi on Thursday and Friday, the clearly shattered principal, Elizabeth Mbatha, refused to discuss the killing, saying Nkonyeni had gagged staff.
“All I can say is he was a dedicated, humble somebody who loved teaching and loved these children,” Mbatha said.
While some fingers in the tiny town about 50km from Dundee are being pointed at Molefe, the mayor told City Press this week she also feared for her life.
“I am shivering. We are all shivering. We don’t know what to do. We are all shocked and traumatised,” said Molefe. “People will point fingers and say things, but I thank God they have been arrested and pray that they will tell the truth.
“I do not feel safe myself. I was introduced to this comrade [Ntombela] about eight months ago. He was doing work for the ANC. He was a deployee of the ANC. He came to work here in November or December.” Molefe said she had last seen Ntombela at a council meeting where attempts to pass this year’s budget had failed after councillors could not reach agreement on several issues, including the proposed extension of the contracts of senior municipal staff.
“We spoke on the phone after that and we had agreed the budget would be presented again on June 9,” she said.
On Friday, Ntombela’s teacher brother, Simphiwe, said his brother had told him this would have been his last term as a councillor and he planned to scale back on his political activity.
“He told me this would be his last term because there were things he was not comfortable with,” said Simphiwe. “My brother loved the ANC and had been organising for it since the difficult days here during the political violence. He told me he was not going to stand again and had not made himself available to stand for the ANC region again,” said Simphiwe.
“He had served two terms. My brother was not happy, as he felt we were not doing enough.
“Vusi was humble and respectful but also very dedicated and stubborn.
“If he didn’t approve of something or was uncomfortable with something, he would make that known, quietly. I think perhaps that is why this happened,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni said police would make sure the mastermind was arrested.
“While we condemn the brutal manner in which this educator and pupil were killed, we are pleased that police were able to act swiftly and trace the suspects immediately after the crime was committed. We will ensure that we throw the book at them,” she said.
Ntombela’s murder is not the first political killing to rock the ANC’s Inkosi Bhambatha region.
ight years ago, ANC councillor Grisham Bujram was shot dead by a bodyguard and lover of then mayor of the Dundee municipality.