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CityPress - - News -

hirley Bu­jram is shiv­er­ing as the icy wind cuts through Dundee’s mu­nic­i­pal ceme­tery. She is mak­ing her way to the grave of her hus­band, Gr­ishen. The gran­ite tombstone with an ANC em­blem was erected by the gov­ern­ing party to hon­our Gr­ishen Bu­jram’s con­tri­bu­tion to the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion.

Shirley Bu­jram is shak­ing not only be­cause she’s cold, but be­cause she’s an­gry at the state’s fail­ure to se­cure the con­vic­tion of the woman she be­lieves mas­ter­minded her hus­band’s mur­der eight years ago. She is also an­gry with the ANC for its seem­ing pro­tec­tion of the al­leged killer.

Gr­ishen (43) was a whis­tle-blower. The for­mer ANC coun­cil­lor in the En­du­meni Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in KwaZulu-Natal was gunned down in Si­bongile Town­ship near Dundee on June 15 2007.

An un­der­ground ANC op­er­a­tive and United Demo­cratic Front ac­tivist in the 1980s, he had been out­raged by the al­leged sale of 17 RDP houses by then ANC mayor Than­deka Nukani, who had also ac­quired one for her­self.

He had forced sev­eral con­fronta­tions on the is­sue, which he had also re­ported to the coun­cil and to ANC struc­tures.

The men who mur­dered him were caught and con­victed. Killer Num­ber 1, Bongani Shangase, was Than­deka Nukani’s boyfriend. Killer Num­ber 2, Siyabonga Nukani, was her nephew. The killing was car­ried out us­ing the mayor’s car. Shangase was jailed for life for his role in the mur­der, while Siyabonga Nukani turned state wit­ness and got 20 years in jail.

Than­deka Nukani was sub­se­quently charged with Bu­jram’s mur­der, based on state­ments by her nephew af­ter she al­legedly tried to have him poi­soned in jail. She was also charged with con­spir­acy to mur­der her nephew with Shangase, her driver Peter Khu­malo and two prison in­mates.

But the charges to com­mit mur­der were with­drawn in 2011 be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

In Au­gust last year, Judge Isaac Nkosi with­drew the Bu­jram mur­der charges af­ter a key state wit­ness went on the run.

For the sec­ond time, the for­mer mayor walked away a free woman.

Than­deka Nukani, whose R100 000 bail was paid by then ANC re­gional chair­per­son Phi­lani Mavundla, lost her may­oral seat. She has been re­de­ployed as the per­sonal as­sis­tant to Umziny­athi Dis­trict Mu­nic­i­pal­ity mayor and for­mer ANC re­gional chair­per­son Rev­erend James Mthethwa.

She lives just two streets away from Bu­jram’s widow.

Shirley Bu­jram has un­suc­cess­fully pe­ti­tioned the Public Pro­tec­tor to in­ter­vene and has turned to for­mer vi­o­lence mon­i­tor Mary De Haas to help in try­ing to get the orig­i­nal hous­ing cor­rup­tion charges re­opened.

Speaker Sduduzo Md­luli, a close friend of Gr­ishen, un­der­stands the mo­ti­va­tion of the Bu­jram fam­ily, say­ing “the [aborted] trial leaves them with a lot of unan­swered ques­tions”.

He says Gr­ishen’s death was “cat­a­strophic, a kind of dis­as­ter” that had come out of the blue.

“I didn’t ex­pect this. There had been is­sues in the ANC and an ar­gu­ment in the of­fice. There was a meet­ing … to re­solve this and the com­rades had all been given a chance to apol­o­gise to each other.”

Than­deka Nukani, who has re­peat­edly de­nied any in­volve­ment in the killing and poi­son plot in court and the media, ig­nored sev­eral at­tempts by City Press to get her side of the story. How­ever, Shirley Bu­jram is only too keen to talk. “We don’t know what to do. There’s been a mis­car­riage of jus­tice, but no­body in the sys­tem is will­ing to as­sist us,” she says.

She adds that no one seems to care about the cor­rup­tion charges made by Gr­ishen against Than­deka Nukani, or “the fact that he was killed in this way”.

“It’s a very bit­ter thing for us to see some­body who gave ev­ery­thing for what he be­lieved in, dy­ing like this and noth­ing be­ing done about it,” she says.

Gr­ishen’s killing is not the only one to have rocked the ANC’s Inkosi Bham­batha re­gion.

Less than a month ago, al­most ex­actly eight years af­ter Gr­ishen’s mur­der, ANC Speaker Vusi Ntombela was gunned down while teach­ing in his class­room in nearby Nquthu, which also falls un­der the Umziny­athi Dis­trict Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

One pupil, 13-year-old El­iz­a­beth Nh­leko, died in the cross­fire and another was in­jured.

This killing also had all the hall­marks of a po­lit­i­cal hit and, once again, a mayor’s body­guard was among those ar­rested.

On the day Shirley Bu­jram was vis­it­ing her hus­band’s grave, Vusi Ntombela’s brother, Simphiwe, was at the fam­ily home 50km away in Nquthu pre­par­ing for his fu­neral.

The Ntombela fam­ily is bat­tling to come to terms with the killing – al­legedly by the body­guard of the mayor of Nquthu, Emily Mokoena.

The ra­zor wire-topped walls around the mourn­ing home, less than 5km from the Lu­visi Pri­mary School where Ntombela was deputy prin­ci­pal, bear tes­ti­mony to the po­lit­i­cal ten­sions and blood­shed that have gripped Nquthu for months. The house and its con­tents are hum­ble. The barbed wire is about pro­tect­ing lives, not pos­ses­sions.

Ntombela, who had re­fused an in­struc­tion from the ANC sub­re­gion to re­sign in De­cem­ber, had told Simphiwe he would not stand for another term and that he’d had enough of pol­i­tics.

Like Gr­ishen, Vusi Ntombela had been an ANC mem­ber for most of his life.

Mokoena’s body­guard, Sibongiseni Mdakane (32), has been ar­rested with Mb­hekiseni Kham­bule (38) and Bhek­izenzo Dlangamandla (32).

The town is awash with ru­mours that the mayor was be­hind the hit, although she de­nies it.

“I am liv­ing in fear my­self,” she told City Press. “I pray that this man [her body­guard] tells the truth in court.”

Simphiwe Ntombela does not be­lieve the three men acted alone. “We are very pleased that peo­ple have been ar­rested quickly and we have to be hope­ful that the en­tire story as to why they did this and who was be­hind it will come out.

“We will be in­ter­ested to see who funds their lawyers when they make bail ap­pli­ca­tions and stand trial – we are watch­ing that very care­fully.”

Mean­while, the killing of coun­cil­lors con­tin­ues across the province. Coun­cil­lors in Dur­ban on the south coast and at the KwaMashu Hos­tel have been killed in the past few years.

The men ar­rested for Gr­ishen’s mur­der were also charged with the 2008 mur­der of IFP En­du­meni coun­cil­lor Peter Nx­ele – an as­sas­si­na­tion they al­legedly car­ried out be­tween Gr­ishen’s killing and their ar­rest in 2009.

Nx­ele was gunned down in May 2008 af­ter rais­ing ques­tions about R50 000 that had gone miss­ing from a coun­cil busi­ness grant.

Len­nox Mabaso, spokesper­son for KwaZulu-Natal’s Co­op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, was one of the speak­ers at Ntombela’s fu­neral two Sun­days ago.

He says he is “con­fi­dent the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem will en­sure that all in­di­vid­u­als re­spon­si­ble” for Ntombela’s killing will be brought to jus­tice. But Mabaso is also a wor­ried man. He says that on­go­ing vi­o­lence against public rep­re­sen­ta­tives is “very dis­turb­ing”.

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